Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 by David Chen
Despite a solid pedigree, with Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie taking up directing and writing duties respectively, Valkyrie has taken a drubbing on the PR front, mostly because of people’s poisonous initial reactions to Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. A recent article at the NYTimes laid out what a high-stakes bet Valkyrie is for MGM Studios:
Valkyrie has turned into a test not only of Mr. Cruise’s career durability, but of MGM’s determination — with new ownership, and under the chairmanship of Harry E. Sloan since 2005 — to be taken seriously as a producer and distributor of the kind of risky event films that define a major studio.
If Valkyrie succeeds, even moderately, MGM wins a modicum of credibility in image-is-everything Hollywood. A failure brings fresh sniping that the studio does not know what it is doing, making the job of attracting top-notch talent even harder. Financially speaking, the stakes are considerable. With a stated production budget of $75 million — competitors insist it is closer to $90 million — Valkyrie is the most expensive film made for distribution by MGM under Sloan’s watch. The studio will now spend about $60 million to market the movie — if nothing else, to make the point that it can play in the big leagues.
Unfortunately, we’re now hearing some pretty bad buzz about Valkyrie from MSNBC’S The Scoop (via Get The Big Picture), citing unnamed sources who have seen the movie and call Cruise’s performance laugh-inducing. In particular, a scene where Cruise was forced to give the “Heil Hitler” salute:
It’s an unsettling scene but you almost start to laugh…His character is resisting it but you never forget it’s Tom Cruise saying “Heil Hitler.” It’s funny and shocking at the same time.
Sources also say that the film isn’t very thrilling at all:
It’s a bunch of white guys in Nazi uniforms. It’s too bad. And Tom doesn’t speak with a German accent — though they did add a voiceover of him speaking German to the beginning of the film. Still, it’s as if he could say ‘I complete you’ at any time. This is not his Oscar moment.
Head over to The Scoop for some more details. While these unnamed sources may or may not be an appropriate gauge of what general audiences will think, I’m still holding out hope that Singer can deliver a thriller on par with The Usual Suspects (although more and more I begin to doubt). After all, the last Valkyrie trailer wasn’t half bad. Right?
Update: /Film commenter Cerisier points out that one should probably take the above anonymous sources with a pound of salt. I would wholeheartedly agree.
/Film commenter Emily directs us to The Independent, which has reports from screenings that took place on Saturday and Sunday. According to the article, the screening eliminated fears that Cruise would attempt a German accent and also garnered “shockingly positive” reviews. According to Steve Gaydos, executive editor of Variety:
All the buzz is that it’s pretty good…Von Stauffenberg is not a typical role for Cruise, but in the event, he is a terrific actor who has surrounded himself with some of the most talented people around.
In other words, Valkyrie certainly still has the potential to be a big hit. More reports from screenings as they roll in.