Editor's Note: This entire article is based upon the plot of Tom Cruise's new film, Valkyrie. Thus, it could be considered a spoiler. Fair warning!
What's it like to be Tom Cruise? On the one hand, you're the biggest movie star in the world. But on the other, nobody's really interested in what you do anymore. Lions for Lambs was a certified bomb, you're always suing somebody, and people think you have Katie Holmes chained to a radiator in your basement. Your Tropic Thunder cameo is the only bright spot, and half the audience didn't know it was you. But hey, the 25th anniversary DVD of Risky Business just came out. So there's that.
Up next? Valkyrie, about the "July 20 Plot" to assassinate Hitler.
Operation Valkyrie was a Hitler-approved plan for the German Reserve Army to take over the government if the country fell into anarchy. What Hitler didn't know was that it had been infiltrated by members of the German Resistance, including the head of the program, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.
Stauffenberg believed that the only way to save Germany was to kill Hitler and stage a coup using the existing Valkyrie, then sue for peace with the Allies. On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg traveled to Hitler's Wolf's Nest and planted a briefcase bomb in his briefing room, but Hitler survived with only minor injuries. Stauffenberg and his allies were tracked down and executed, and Hitler lived until April 30, 1945, when he committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. It's a great story with tons of natural drama and intrigue, and even though there have been a number of German film and TV versions, this is Hollywood's first try.
Cruise stars as Stauffenberg, and a string of other great actors fills out the cast, like Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, and Eddie Izzard. But it's hardly the period costume drama it sounds like. Director Bryan Singer is best known for The Usual Suspects, X-Men, and Superman Returns; this is a thriller, not a drama like Downfall, the fantastic German movie about the last days of Hitler's bunker (seriously, if you haven't seen it, put it on your list now).
Like Chris Rock once said about Ricky Martin, Tom needs a hit bad. Valkyrie is rumored to have cost more than $100 million, and Cruise's United Artists is floundering. The movie's already been delayed once, which is never a good sign, and rumors are calling it "troubled."
The real story of the "July 20 Plot" is a great piece of lost history. I don't have a lot of faith in Tom Cruise any more, and it seems like moviegoers agree with me. But I'd love to be proved wrong on December 26 when Valkyrie hits theaters.