Angels of War

"Valkyrie" makes us think the unthinkable


Angels of War
by Ari Siletz

Tom Cruise’s WWII thriller Valkyrie has had some oddly nonsensical reviews. Scratching his head about this, critic Roger Ebert says, “I am at a loss to explain the blizzard of negative advance buzz [about the film].” The zaniest of such negative reactions was penned by Roger Friedman of Fox News. This reviewer complains, “You knew it would be bad, and it is.” For a professional film review, this is an absurd statement. How could Freidman know the movie was bad before he’d seen it? Smelling a rat, I checked out the film and found it. Ostensibly about German officers plotting to blow up Hitler, Valkyrie makes us think the unthinkable: is the US military justified in overthrowing its own government if the country is being led to certain ruin.

“He [Cruise] doesn’t even attempt a German accent,” Friedman says in his panicked review. “His American accent gets very bad, to the point where he’s dropping the g’s.” As a professional critic, Friedman would know that Cruise’s American accent is likely a deliberate choice by the director to connect Hitler’s war mongering with current US militarism. The film’s opening credits literally spell this out for us by fading the German spelling of the words into their English equivalents. In an attempt to throw the film’s potential audience off the scent, Friedman feigns bewilderment at the choice of Tom Cruise for the lead role. “He’s completely miscast,” the review insists, citing Cruise’s Jerry Maguire. This is a misleading casting reference, as Friedman would know. The correct reference is Cruise’s Born On The Fourth of July. The Oscar nominated role as a severely wounded American soldier, makes Cruise the perfect choice to play the German colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg, who lost a hand and an eye in WW II. Perfect, that is, if the director wants to draw a parallel between the patriotic German soldier sick of Hitler’s lunacies and the patriotic American soldier sick of ass pyramids at Abu Ghraib.

To drive home the current events allegory, Valkyrie even imitates, tongue-in-cheek, Obama’s campaign slogan. The German colonel tells his co-conspirators that Hitler’s assassination is imperative because “a change must be made.” In an allusion to political protest being denounced as “pallin’ around with terrorists,” Von Stauffenberg tells a potential recruit, “I am involved in high treason…can I count you in?” Reminding us of the disgrace of former US attorney general Alberto Gonzales, the movie details how in Western societies regulations can be finagled to engineer power grabs. Quickly it becomes obvious why Fox News, the media arm of US militarism, would assault the film.

Friedman makes his clearest argument against the film when he says he didn’t like it “Because in Valkyrie Singer [the director] opens the door to a dangerous new thought: that the Holocaust and all the atrocities could be of secondary important [sic] to the cause of German patriotism.” Never mind that the hero is trying to end the war; Friedman is disappointed that he is doing it for the wrong reason, acting only to save his country from annihilation. It would have been meaningless if Von Stauffenberg had succeeded in ending World War II, says Friedman’s logic, because the ensuing cessation of Hitler’s war crimes would have been coincidental!! Just a few months before Von Stauffenberg’s July plot to eliminate Hitler, 400,000 Hungarian Jews were gassed at Auschwitz. I doubt any of the surviving inmates would have minded being rescued unintentionally.

I saw Valkyrie a few hours after I had returned from a Gaza protest rally; so images of civilian massacre were freshly painful on my mind, making one particular symbolism in the film go far with me. Von Stuaffenberg had lost an eye to the enemy, and the film made sure the audience kept that in mind. Despite the cruel wording, the "eye for an eye" directive in the Torah is meant to limit the retribution one can exact. It is a ban against unbridled vengeance. If someone pokes out your eye, then take his eye if you must. But you are forbidden to go on to kill his wife, burn his kids, tear down his house, take away his livelihood, and devastate his land.

The enemy owed Von Stauffenberg an eye, but with his good eye he could still see that continuing the war would ultimately lead to the annihilation of his own nation. Crazy Hitler couldn’t see that.


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Ari Siletz

For Extra Info

by Ari Siletz on

The Scientology angle to Valkyrie is also interesting. The German government has seriously locked horns with the group. This makes Singer's choice of Cruise for the lead role even more intriguing. The production almost didn't get permission to film in Germany. The German controversy is another dimension on top of Scientology's spat with psychologists.


The German production with Sebastian Koch

by Yari (not verified) on

There is a very good German movie on the subject that came out in 2004:


With Sebastian Koch ( from "The Lives of Others" fame: //

Bits and pieces can be seen here:



Cruise is a devout Scientologist - hence the hatred

by Extra Info (not verified) on

Scientology has exposed some very nasty elements within US government and around the world and they have made themselves the target of many serious criminals with gobs of money. Cruise has been criticized heavily in the media, mainly because he brought the idea to national TV that psychiatry is not a science and is essentially a huge fraud. Since then certain influential elements have tried everything to muddy his name. Their critical view has nothing to do with his work. Now you understand why someone like Friedman "knew" the movie would be bad before it was even seen. He was either paid to release such a criticism or he himself is connected to the psychiatry-pharmaceutical cartel.

Ari Siletz

For Korosh

by Ari Siletz on

Can you tell us more about your encounter with a kin of Von Staufenberg, and his Iranian wife? I'm very curious. I read that the Von Staufenberg family (along with the German Government) objected to the film.

Ari Siletz

For DW Duke

by Ari Siletz on

You are quite correct. "Eye for an eye" is to be interpreted as "The equivalent of an eye for an eye," leading to more advanced forms of restitution.  You may know of the beautiful argument where one is asked, what if a blind person takes the eye of a seeing person? The question demonstrates that the literal interpretation of the directive must be incorrect and that equivalence is intended.  Being of a secular bent, I am still in awe of how religious scholars have been able to refine the law further and further towards higher states of civilization. Thank you for adding precision to the discourse. 


cruise sucked

by MRX1 on

The worst choice to play aristrocheratic colonel stuafenberg. how ever the movie makes you think what if they succeeded? how many life's would have been saved and how sooner world war II could have come to an end and how germany could have been saved. It also made me think just what if General mohagheghi, mahdion, jahangiri and the rest of all those brave souls succeeded in 18 tir plot ( nojeh as islamo facist call it), how many life's would have been saved, how Iran would have been saved and on it's way towards progress and greatness. sadly in both cases things turnedout for worse...


I saw the movie too

by Anonymous (not verified) on

This was a good movie in every sense. Basically you pay the $ and go to a movie to see something that you can't see on DVD. Besides the story, the plot the whole thing was good and it is a shame that it is not getting as much and well desreved attention.

DW Duke

Eye for an Eye

by DW Duke on

Thanks Ari.  I thought the movie was one of the best I have seen in a long time.  I don't know what the critics were thinking but after seeing the movie I could only imagine that they didn't understand the significance of the assassination attempt.

In any event, I noted your reference to an "eye for an eye" and the fact that Von Stauffenberg lost his eye but could still see out of his good eye.  As you noted most people regard the phrase an "eye for an eye" to refer to criminal punishment.  As I suspect you also know, the Talmud in Ketuvot 32b and Bava Kamma 83b explain that it is meant as a form of civil restitution.  Thus, if one causes damage to a person or his property, he must pay damages sufficient to restore that person to the position he would have been were it not for the damage caused.  This is of course, the same measure of damages we apply today in American jurisprudence and in many courts throughout the world.   

Thanks for the interesting review. 




Von Stauffenberg...An Iranian Connection!!

by Korosh (not verified) on

This comment has nothing to do with the article above, but I met Klaus Von Stauffenberg's Grandson in Tehran a few years ago. He is married to an Iranian lady and visits Iran occasionally.

Von Stauffenberg's true story is itself amazingly dramatic and I urge people to read it. I read it in "the rise and fall of the third reich"