Valkyrie
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Valkyrie (2008) More at IMDbPro »

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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Valkyrie can be found here.

No. Valkyrie is based on a screenplay by director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie. The idea started when McQuarrie visited Berlin in 2002 while researching another project. While there, he saw a memorial to Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg at the Bendlerblock. Staufenberg was a German army officer and one of the leaders in an unsuccessful attempt to kill Adolf Hitler. Four years later, McQuarrie was joined by Singer and filming began the following year.

In Norse mythology, the Valkyries were minor female deities - half women, half birds - who served Odin, the leader of the gods, and protected Valhalla, the Norse heaven. For more information about the Valkyries, look here. Operation Walkre (Valkyrie) was an operational plan of the German Wehrmacht's Reserve Army, initially designed to be used in the event that disruption caused by the Allied bombing of German cities caused a breakdown in law and order or a rising by the millions of slaves from occupied countries working in German factories. The primary emphasis, however, was on the protection of Hitler (played by David Bamber) and the government in Berlin. The conspirators of 20 July 1944, Stauffenberg (played by Tom Cruise) and others from the Wehrmacht's General Staff amongst them, tried to modify the plan according to their needs so that they would be able to quickly disarm SS troops, arrest the leading Nazis, and take over control of German cities.

It's simply part of his costume as Claus von Stauffenberg. In 1943 Stauffenberg was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and was sent to Africa to join the 10th Panzer (tank) Division. There, while he was scouting out a new command area, his vehicle was strafed on April 7th, 1943 by British fighter-bombers and he was severely wounded. He spent three months in hospital in Munich. Stauffenberg lost his left eye, his right hand, and the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand. He jokingly remarked to friends never to have really known what to do with so many fingers when he still had ten of them.

This is a common gimmick with Hollywood movies. If the story takes place in a foreign country, where the main language isn't English the characters will start by speaking their native language but then switch to English. This is to suggest that they ARE still speaking German but we HEAR English. This was most famously employed in The Hunt for Red October (1990), where all the Russian characters speak Russian, then one man switches to English, as do all the rest. Yet when the American and Russian characters are on screen together, they can't communicate with each other.

The characters are not German characters speaking English. They are German characters speaking German. What viewers are meant to be hearing is a sort of instant translation. There is no reason to give the characters German accents and so the producers simply had most of the actors use their normal accents. It's also worth noting that in English it is very easy for a German accent to slip across the border into parody.

Yes, albeit very briefly. When Stauffenberg meets Hitler for the first time to present the revised copy of Valkyrie to him, Heinrich Himmler (Matthias Freihof) is seen briefly in the group of people sitting around the fireplace. He is the one walking around with the hi-top haircut, glasses and the pencil mustache. He doesn't have any significant role in the plot except that Goerdeler (Kevin McNally) didn't want Stauffenberg to proceed with the bombing unless he could get both Himmler and Hitler.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the famous "Desert Fox", does not appear in Valkyrie, but has often been connected by both historians and popular media to the 20 July plot. Rommel was one of the most famous and well-respected generals of the German Army, known both for his tactical prowess and chivalry. Rommel, commander of the Axis forces fighting in North Africa, and later Germany's troops opposing the Allied invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord), strongly objected to Hitler's conduct of the war and publicly criticized Hitler, even (according to some historians) planning to "open" the Western Front to the Allies via a negotiated peace. After the 20 July plot, Rommel was accused by the SS as a conspirator (based upon the testimony of two of the conspirators), and in October 1944 he was convinced to commit suicide to avoid the shame of a public trial and mistreatment of his family. After the war, as Rommel began to be seen as both a hero by the German people and an honorable opponent by the Allies, he was depicted as the archetypical "Good German", who not only disapproved of Nazi excesses but actively opposed them by plotting Hitler's death. Several films, most notably The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) with James Mason, helped cement this depiction in popular media, a reputation that persists to this day.

However, historians widely doubt that Rommel had any real degree of involvement in the plot. He is known to have been approached by the plotters, and Dr. Goerdler placed him on a list of possible officials in a post-coup government, but no direct evidence has linked him to the plot; his threatened execution was likely an attempt by Hitler and the SS to clean house. Many internal "enemies" and critics of the Third Reich were arrested and/or executed in conjunction with the 20 July plot, even if they played no part in the conspiracy itself. Rommel's wife and son have always insisted that Rommel was against the plot, not wanting to give the impression that Germany lost the war because of being "stabbed in the back" by traitors (a prominent myth arising after Germany's defeat in World War I). Despite disagreeing with many of Hitler's more extreme policies (particularly regarding the Jews), he seems not to have had any strong dislike of Hitler or the Nazi regime in general. Rommel benefited greatly from Hitler's patronage, rising from the rank of Colonel (and commander of Hitler's bodyguard) to Field Marshal in four years. As he had been seriously wounded by an Allied fighter in June 1944, he would not have been able to play an active role in Valkyrie; due to his reputation with the German people, however, it was hoped by the plotters that he may cooperate with or support their coup- very much the wait-and-see attitude adopted by General Fromm.

Commander of the Reserve Army, Genernal Friedrich Fromm (Tom Wilkinson) was all over the place when it came to his alliances. He would only stay with those from whom he could benefit. When originally approached by Stauffenberg and General Obricht (Bill Nighy); they hinted that they would give him the position of "Supreme Military Commander" when they take over power, as they needed Fromm to put the military on standby action to take over the districts of SS and Gestapo. Fromm tells them as long as The Fuhrer is alive, he will not join Stauffenberg. Basically he is saying "Kill Hitler and I'll join you.". Fromm aids Stauffenberg by getting the revised copy of the Valkyrie initiative past inspection in order for Hitler to sign it. But after the first attempt fails, Fromm pulls out of their arrangement for fear of his life.

During the second attempt, Obricht forges Fromm's approval to put the troops into action. When Fromm learns what has happened he tries to arrest Stauffenberg and his men, but they hold him prisoner until their mission is complete. After the coup fails, Fromm orders the immediate execution of Stauffenberg, Obricht, and the rest. In direct defiance of Hitler's instructions to take them alive. This is because Fromm fears they would tell Hitler of his involvement in the coup and he would be executed along with them. Even after all his attempts to cover his tracks, Hitler didn't take any chances and had Fromm executed as well.

It's likely that the phone was tapped or had an open receiver and anyone could listen in, even when it was hung up.

It is possible that Hitler suspected him of something, but it's more likely that he just didn't really give a damn about Stauffenberg, which is why he didn't really acknowledge him to begin with. By this point in history, Hitler was beginning to come unhinged mentally, which was attested to by many witnesses. This could be the movie's attempt to portray Hitler slipping in and out of his mental capacities. The interaction also cements Stauffenberg's resolve that Hitler is incapable of continuing to rule Germany. An alternate theory is that it was simply, from Stauffenberg's point of view, that he thought he may have been discovered. We see pretty much every person that looked his way who wasn't in on the plan looked at him suspiciously to portray the paranoia of someone in Stauffenberg's position.

Doctor Joseph Goebbels (Harvey Friedman), the Nazi propaganda minister, is shown putting a cyanide pill in his mouth. He is able to convince the Army's commanding officer to not arrest him after phoning Hitler. He obviously intended to commit suicide rather than be arrested and tried by a coup. If his phone gambit with Hitler had not worked he would have swallowed the poison and killed himself. It's worth noting that later on Goebbels would follow Hitler by killing himself, his wife and all of his children in order to "avoid living in a world without the National Socialist Party".

How does the movie end?

Under Hitler's direct orders, Major Remer arrests the conspirators. Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp) shoots himself in the head. The others stand trial. The end of the movie details their executions by firing squad: Police Chief Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorf (Waldemar Kobus) on 15 August 1944, General Friedrich Olbricht and Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, both on 21 July 1944, General Erich Fellgiebel 4 September 1944, Doctor Karl Goerdeler 2 February 1945, Erwin von Witzleben (David Schofield) 8 August 1944, and General Friedrich Fromm 12 March 1945. This is followed by an epilogue that reads: The July 20 plot was the last of 15 known attempts by Germans to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Nine months later, with Berlin surrounded, Hitler committed suicide. Nina von Stauffenberg and her children survived the war. She died April 2, 2006. The final screen is from an inscription on the German Resistance Memorial in Berlin: You did not bear the shame. You resisted, sacrificing your life for freedom, justice, and honor.

As he is executed, Stauffenberg shouts "Long live sacred Germany!"

Yes, Colonel Heinz Brandt's leg was blown off and he died the next day after surgery. Officers killed were General Rudolf Schmundt, Colonel Heinz Brandt and General Gnther Korten. All at the meeting except Keitel suffered perforated eardrums and Hitler had 200 wood splinters removed from his legs, his hair was singed and his uniform torn to ribbons. Scherff, von Puttkamer, Borgmann, Bodenschatz, Buhle, Jodl and Heusinger were also injured.

A suicide mission was considered, even by Stauffenberg himself. Stauffenberg had been planned to be the strategic head of the coup, it was deemed crucial that he be in Berlin, coordinating the take-over. However, from 1 July, 1944 he was the only one of the conspirators that had secured and regular access to Hitler, since he had to take part in the weekly briefings as the chief-of-staff to General Fromm at the Reserve Army headquarters. On 7 July, a planned suicide bombing by General Stieff during the presentation of new army uniforms at Schloss Klessheim near Salzburg failed, because Stieff lost his nerve. Following this incident, Stauffenberg decided that he would try to take out Hitler during a briefing, himself, as well as coordinating the coup from Berlin. Stauffenberg's first attempt, planned to happen during the weekly briefing on 15 July at the Obersalzberg, was cancelled by the other conspirators, since only Hitler would be present, but not Himmler and Gring. The second attempt on 20 July showed the inherent weakness in the plan: Because Stauffenberg, as the "brain" of the coup was not available at the Bendlerblock, the take-over did not proceed as planned. Actions effectively stalled until Stauffenberg returned to Berlin more than four hours after the bomb went off at Wolf's Lair.

Why did the coup fail?

Going strictly by how the movie portrays the events: First, the bomb didn't kill Hitler. The reason the bomb didn't work was because the explosives were to be significantly amplified inside The Wolf's Lair due to the confined rooms built with concrete. But the meeting wasn't held inside The Wolf's Lair. It was held in a building on the outside which was very open. Stauffenberg then asked to be placed as close to Hitler as possible and he places his briefcase with the explosives underneath the table very close to Hitler. Stauffenberg then leaves the building and begins his escape. Colonel Heinz Brandt (Tom Hollander) accidentally knocks over Stauffenberg's briefcase and moves it farther away from Hitler and leans it against the leg of the table. When the bomb goes off, it kills Brandt and three others, but Hitler survived, possibly solely because he was protected from the blast by the leg of the table. General Fellgiebel (Eddie Izzard) calls Obricht's office and reports the blast happened, but it isn't clear if he reported Hitler dead or alive as the connection was faulty. Fellgiebel then orders all communications to be cut so The Wolf's Lair couldn't issue any orders. Obricht, not knowing if Hitler was dead, panicked and hesitated on issuing Fromm's troops into stand-by mode. After a three hour delay Stauffenberg calls Obricht and tells him Hitler is dead. The troops are put on stand-by (by forging Fromm's approval), and the coup goes without a hitch from then on. Hundreds of SS and Gestapo are arrested without a single shot fired. But then The Wolf's Lair manage to get communications out issuing arrest warrants for Stauffenberg and others (due to witnesses and the fact the majority of people survived the blast and Stauffenberg was the only one completely absent). Eventually Captain Haans (Danny Webb), who was in charge of feeding through orders from one location to another decides to cease sending orders from Stauffenberg and continue sending orders from The Wolf's Lair. Once Major Remer (Thomas Kretschmann) (leader of the reserve army) speaks to Hitler on the phone, he realizes he has been duped by Stauffenberg and proceeds to release all those he arrested and goes to arrest Stauffenberg and the other conspirators. The film implies that if Obricht hadn't hesitated, they may have been able to succeed even though Hitler was still alive.

Well, we know how World War II ends, that doesn't mean there's no point in watching movies like Saving Private Ryan (1998), Das Boot (1981), or The Pianist (2002). This story shows how close these people came to assassinating Hitler. It is a story told out of respect for those who attempted to free Germany and to show us that not every German soldier, not even high ranking officers and politicians in Germany, were loyal to Hitler and agreed with his ways.

There is a quote by Stauffenberg, dated 18 July 1944: "Wir haben den Rubikon berschritten." ('We have crossed the Rubicon.'). The Rubicon is a small river slightly northwest of Rome, forming a boundary between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. Julius Caesar crossed the river on his way to take Rome in 49 BC after having been told by the senate to stand down and disband his army. Caesar's action was a clear act of disobedience to the senate; from this point he would either be victorious or be killed as a traitor. As an idiom, "crossing the Rubicon" has come to mean 'to go past a point of no return,' which is the situation in Valkyrie when the plan to overthrow Hitler, once set in motion, is unable to be stopped.

The production company originally did not get permission to film inside the Bendlerblock (today's Ministry of Defence in Berlin). The speaker for the Ministry gave the following reason: "...this place of remembrance and mourning would lose of its dignity, were we to exploit it as a film set." This decision has been widely discussed in Germany. Critics have pointed out that the 2004 TV film "Stauffenberg" did get a permission to use the site. A number of people believe that the main reason for this was that Tom Cruise is a devout Scientologist. The German government does not recognize Scientology as a legitimate religion. The German authorities involved in the decision denied that this played a role in the decision (see also further down in this answer).

The Berlin Police also did not give permission to film at the barracks at Friesenstrae ("The Berlin Police has considered this application at length, but had to arrive at the conclusion that the interference with daily operations of the authorities located at the site would be very grave indeed. As such the application had to be rejected.") Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung online, 3 July 2007 here.

As of 14th September, 2007, the Ministry of Defence has reconsidered its stance on the issue of filming inside Bendlerblock: After the author, Christopher McQuarrie, wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defence, F. J. Jung, explaining what was planned for the film, an on-site visit was agreed upon in which the production company, the Ministery of Defence, the government spokesman and a representative of the memorial located at Bendlerblock took part. Following that, the permission to shoot at Bendlerblock was granted. The speaker for the Ministry of Defence rejected the notion, that Tom Cruise's involvement with Scientology played any part in the original disallowing of filming. "This hasn't been brought into the debate by us. We were solely concerned about the place and about the treatment of the place." Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung online, 14 September 2007, here. See also the news articles page for this film here. A good overview of the public discussion in Germany can be found in the German-language newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which put together a dossier containing all articles on filming "Valkyrie" and on the discussions here.

The oath in the beginning of the teaser trailer is the so called Fhrereid, the oath of allegiance of the German Armed Forces to the Fhrer (leader). In August 1934, after the democratically elected Reichsprsident Paul von Hindenburg died, Hitler declared himself Fhrer, by assuming the office of Reichsprsident (president) as well as Reichskanzler (chancellor). Since the Reichswehr was still following the old Prussian traditions and was only presumed to the will of the German people and its elected leaders, the Nazis founded the Wehrmacht in 1935 and issued a new oath which became known as Fhrereid: "Ich schwre bei Gott diesen heiligen Eid, da ich dem Fhrer des Deutschen Reiches und Volkes, Adolf Hitler, dem Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht, unbedingten Gehorsam leisten und als tapferer Soldat bereit sein will, jederzeit fr diesen Eid mein Leben einzusetzen." [English: "I swear by God this holy oath, that I want to offer unconditional obedience to the Fhrer of the German Empire and people, Adolf Hitler, the commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht, and be prepared as a brave soldier to risk my life for this oath at any time."] In this way the military was now bound to Hitler himself rather than to the office of the Reichsprsident. The oath was very effective: most of the army felt bounded to this oath and kept on fighting for Hitler even when the war was clearly lost. Not until Hitler commited suicide on April 30th, 1945 most parts of the German army surrenderd since they felt freed of the oath and their duties.

Apart from that, the Schutzstaffel (SS) (not the German army!) had used a different oath that should bind them much closer to Adolf Hitler, since they were entirely founded by the Nazis and based on nationalsocialistic ideas. German: "Ich schwre Adolf Hitler unerschtterliche Treue. Ich schwre ihm und den Fhrern, die er mir bestimmt, unbedingten Gehorsam. Adolf Hitler: Sieg Heil!" [English: "I swear unswerving loyalty to Adolf Hitler. I swear uncondtional obedience to him and to the leaders that he determines for me. Adolf Hitler: Sieg Heil (hail victory)!"]

The most comprehensive biography of Stauffenberg was published in 1992: Peter Hoffmann: Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg und seine Brder. DVA, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-421-06533-0. Peter Hoffmann: Stauffenberg : A Family History, 1905-1944. Cambridge University Press (1995). ISBN 0-521-45307-0. This is a 450 page scholarly work that covers pretty much every aspect of his public life, while still being eminently readable. A comprehensive description of the 20 July plot and events leading up to it as well as its aftermath is: Joachim Fest: Staatsstreich: Der lange Weg zum 20. Juli. btb-Verlag 2004 (reissue), ISBN 978-3442721061 Joachim Fest: Plotting Hitler's Death: The Story of German Resistance. Owl books, 1997. ISBN 978-0805056488 The Wikipedia has articles in German and English as well as a number of other languages (see link list with the German or English article here. An article on the perception of Stauffenberg and the July 20 plot from 1945 to today can be found at "einestages" (German-language history website) here. An article by Jacob Pemberton (San Francisco State University), titled "20 Juli: The Politics of a Coup" here. For those historically-minded: The TIME magazine has its 1944 articles reporting on the assassination attempt online here Crack of Doom Jul. 31, 1944, and here "Never, Never, Never!" Aug. 14, 1944.

There were. According to different historians, between 17 and 42 (depending on whether you count only those where people actually set off a bomb or came near Hitler carrying explosives or a pistol, and failed for some reason, or count as well the planned attempts). The first attempts already happened in the 1920's, although this could be considered part of the general political upheaval and civil war-like atmosphere at that time, rather than an attempt based on the assumption that the man needed to be removed. Several other attempts involved Resistance movements in occupied countries like Poland and France, and during the war the British considered Operation Foxley, a plan to assassinate Hitler with a sniper, which was ultimately aborted. There are apparently no easily findable websites in English that list some of the attempts, except this one, which concentrates on the war years only and has none of the attempts pre-war: Another online source would be to go to the German Wikipedia articles here and here and look at the sections "Widerstandsgruppen" (resistance groups) and "Attentate" (assassination attempts) to names and groups back to the English Wikipedia (if an article exists). Offline, there are more complete resources: (1) Will Berthold: Die 42 Attentate auf Adolf Hitler (English title and ISBN to be added), (2) Wolfgang Benz/Walter Pehle: Encyclopedia of German Resistance, and (3) National Geographic has produced a 50 minute documentary, 42 Ways to Kill Hitler (2008).

Actually, no. None of the main architects of the "20th Juli plot" was even a member of the N.S.D.A.P., the Nazi party, but they were without a doubt conservative patriots. Their record as highranking military men shows that they disagreed with the Nazis when the tide of the war turned. Two examples include: (1) Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp) tried very early as Chief of the General Staff to deter Hitler from enlarging the Reich through military actions and left the Wehrmacht already in 1938. Since he knew that the Wehrmacht would not be strong enough to win a war against the Allies (including the Soviet Union) he also tried to convince fellow officers to resign, and (2) Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh), initially a sympathizer of National Socialism due to their opposition to the Treaty of Versailles, allready condemned the 1934 "Night of the Long Knives" (the killing of several opposition Nazis). In 1936 he was appointed to the German General Staff's 1st department. Studying the possible scenarios of war, he recognized the risks and weaknesses in Hitler's desire to prepare for war. The 1938 Blomberg-Fritsch Affair (two related scandals that resulted in the subjugation of the Wehrmacht to Hitler) alienated Tresckow and others from Hitler. As a result, he sought out civilians and soldiers who opposed Hitler to build up a resistance.

The best ones are German productions and therefore only available with German subtitles. The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951), a biopic of Erwin Rommel, prominently features features the 20 July plot, although it erroneously posits Rommel as a major player in the conspiracy. The Night of the Generals (1967) is a murder mystery set alongside the same assassination plot as Valkyrie. Some other worthy war movies from the German perspective include Stalingrad (1993) about the battle of Stalingrad, Der Untergang (2004) about the last days of Hitler, Das Boot (1981) about the U-Boat war (one of the best known examples), and Cross of Iron (1977) about the Eastern front and the madness of war in general. The Bridge at Remagen (1969) mainly concerns the western powers, but the film does contain a lot of scenes with German actors and portrays fairly good their destiny. Die Brücke (1959) tells the story of a group of Hitler Youth members, sent as the last contingent to defend a small-town bridge against the approaching US Army, Europa Europa (1990) concerns Salomon Perel, a Jewish teenage who survived the war by joining the Hilter Youth, and Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage (2005) tells the story of German resistance fighter Sophie Scholl. There also is Comedian Harmonists (1997), not a war movie but set during the early years of the Nazi era; Rosenstrasse (2003), a story about several German women who fought for their Jewish husbands not to be deported; Napola - Elite für den Führer (2004) about a young Nazi elite school; Aimée & Jaguar (1999) about a lesbian relationship during the Third Reich; Die Mörder sind unter uns 1946) about a Jewish woman returning from a KZ back to Berlin to find the former Nazi camp commander; and Edelweisspiraten (2004): a group of young men planning an act of sabotage against the Gestapo.

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