Saturday, December 27, 2008


Wartime drama
Based on a true story

Adolf Hitler was born in 1889. A decorated veteran of World War I, he joined the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the Nazi Party, in 1920 and soon became its leader. Following a failed coup he was instrumental in organizing, he wrote Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) while in prison. In 1933 he was named chancellor and quickly established a totalitarian dictatorship. As the Führer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces he ordered the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the outbreak of World War II. His favourite composer was Richard Wagner who wrote the opera Die Walküre. The most popular piece, the Ride of the Valkyries, is the prelude to Act III.

Hilter conceived the plan named after this opera, called Operation Valkyrie, to have a reserve army that was held back from the front to defend Berlin and himself in case of an Allied assault on the capital.

The largest component of the German armed forces during World War II was the regular army (the Wehrmacht) of 15 million men in three branches: the land forces (Herr), the Navy (Kriegsmarine) and the Air Force (Luftwaffe). Being a member of the Nazi party was not a prerequisite and there were many who found some aspects of the ideology (such as the Final Solution) repugnant.
In 1925 Adolf Hitler formed his own personal bodyguard called the Schutzstaffel (SS) with Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler as its leader. At the outbreak of World War II a combat arm was formed as the Waffen-SS. This all-volunteer army of 600,000 in black uniforms was considered German’s elite land based fighting force. All members of the SS endorsed the Nazi ideology.

Tom Cruise: Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg with the 10th Panzer Division
Kenneth Branagh: Major General Henning von Tresckow, Chief of Staff: Army Group Center
Bill Nighy: General Friedrich Olbricht, Chief of the General Army Office
Terence Stamp: former Colonel General Ludwig Beck
Tom Wilkinson: General Friedrich Fromm, Commander in Chief of the Replacement Army
Eddie Izzard : General Fellgiebe, Communications Officer at the Wolf’s Lair compound

With all around solid performances and great attention to detail, the recounting of an attempt on Hitler’s life is riveting stuff. Although it runs almost two hours, it needs all of that time to recreate the situation and provide enough information so we can understand what was going on.

For some viewers it will be a story retold but to many it will be an eye-opener to learn that not all Germans were bad guys during World War II.

for violence and brief strong language (translation: one instance of the f-word).

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