Dire War Disaster Movie, 31 January 2010

Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom

Certainly the most miscast, and probably the most misconceived, War film I have ever seen. Director Bryan Singer made a modern classic with “The Usual Suspects” ,but his milieu is television. This comes across as a big budget / low brain effort which pulverises an essentially good story into pulp. At the heart of everything is the casting and accents. A predominantly British cast play the Germans in strong British accents, Cruise plays Stauffenberg with an American accent that veers into British from time to time. Consequently the whole film feels like a giant fancy dress party.

The sets, and costumes are convincing. The dialogue is not. I wanted to suspend disbelief, but when the English speaking accents are compounded by situations, speech and phrasing which are wholly un-Germanic that is nigh on impossible. In “The Usual Suspects”, Singer started at the end and then worked back to it, a device used in “Carlitos Way” by Brian De Palma, and therein lies another challenge. We know what happens, the assassination plot fails, so how do you deal with that to retain dramatic tension? The answer is that Singer doesn’t. De Palma created a Shakespearean tragedy, but Singer is no De Palma, and the script and story does not allow Cruise to replicate Pacino as the man condemned to an inevitable fate. So the film constantly struggles to find it’s artistic raison d’etre.

Historically, the film is flawed. Inevitably Cruise plays Stauffenberg as the “good guy”, the truth was far more complex, and interesting than that, but the screenplay has no time to flesh that out. There is an ongoing intrinsic conflict between what and who is right and wrong in the story. Perversely the denouement shows loyal soldiers making the right practical decisions in crushing the coup which is an odd moral to emerge as a defining theme.

The rise of Hitler. His mass popular support. His ability to turn proud Nationalism into ghastly genocide, and the lack of resistance to him are all big, film worthy topics. The mechanics of a coup in a powerful country, with a strong regime at War is also intriguing stuff. The conflicting demands that soldiers and citizens have to their country, their leader, and right and wrong are timeless matters. All this is squandered by a treatment that would barely get off a cartoon storyboard.

Frustratingly the story of the plot is a worthy theme, and the events bear critical and dramatic examination, but this offering misses the target so spectacularly that if offers nothing to the debate. For those with no interest in history, looking for straight forwards entertainment this is passable, but no more.

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