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Film / Valkyrie

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"It only matters that we act, now, before we lose the war. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler's Germany...and we have to show the world that not all of us were like him."
Henning von Tresckow

Valkyrie is a 2008 historical drama film about the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler by a dedicated cabal of German military officers, as well as some non-military personnel. It is directed by Bryan Singer, written by Christopher McQuarrie, and starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson, Carice Van Houten and Matthias Schweighöfer.

Part of what got interest in this film going is that popular consciousness has it that after 1933 there was no resistance within Germany to the Nazi party after the mass-arrests and exodus of the country's overt opposition to Hitler, in part because Hitler remained in power (and alive) until the Soviets took Berlin. Operation Valkyrie was actually the last of over 15 attempts (and one of the closest to being successful) on Hitler's life by various fringe factions within Germany before the end of the war. Even though the outcome of this assassination attempt is rather obvious, it serves as a reminder that the politics of Nazi Germany was far more fractious than it appears at first sight/from Middle- and High-School textbooks.

"Valkyrie" itself comes from the name of the prepared plan dictating the delegation of power that would transpire should Hitler die. The members of the plot had manipulated the Valkyrie protocol so that when Hitler died they would be able to unilaterally seize power with minimal infighting.

Not to be confused with the mythological characters from which this movie takes its name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The movie opens with the Afrika Korps being attacked by the British in Tunisia.
  • Adapted Out: There are several examples of this:
    • Tresckow is depicted being the one who smuggled a bomb onto Hitler's plane and then recovered it after realizing it didn't go off. While Tresckow was involved in this particular plot, Fabian von Schlabrendorff was the one who actually did these actions.
    • The Kreisau Circle, another anti-Hitler group (albeit not in open resistance, but planning for a post-Hitler government) was not included in the film despite having connections to the progress of the titular operation in Berlin.
    • Several important co-conspirators are omitted from the film with their roles given to the main cast. Fritz Thiele (Fellgiebel's chief of staff), Erich Hoepner (who replaced Fromm after the plotters arrested him), Paul von Hase (who gave Remer the order to arrest Goebbels), Ulrich von Hassell (liaison between the resistance and the Kreisau circle), Hellmuth Stieff (chief of army organization) and Philipp von Boeselager (who provided the bombs) all do not appear in the film.
    • As the film focuses on the operation in Berlin, the plotters present in France do not appear. This includes Caesar von Hofacker (a cousin of Stauffenberg), Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel (military governor of France), Hans Speidel (Erwin Rommel's chief of staff) and Eberhard Finckh (chief quartermaster of the Paris military administration).
    • Erwin Rommel himself isn't mentioned either, even though he is believed to have been approached by the plotters and was forced to commit suicide afterwards. In fairness, at the time the plot took place, he was recovering after being injured in an air strike.
    • Several of these figures including Stauffenberg's brother Berthold and the aforementioned Hase were in early drafts of the script but were cut.
  • Affably Evil: Adolf Hitler. When he meets Stauffenberg for the first time, he praises him for his service and his sacrifices for Germany and then tells his fellow national socialists that they could learn a lot of things from him. This is particularly noteworthy because every other member of the Nazi high command that is shown is extremely unpleasant.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Stauffenberg and his companions subvert this. They're just Wehrmacht officers and as a matter of fact, although some of them had been involved in war crimes, most of them were also known for their participation in the German resistance against the Nazi regime and for saving Jews and other minorities from concentration camps and/or mass executions. Henning von Tresckow's words — "We have to show the world that not all of us are like him." — says it all.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Invoked in reference to Fromm, though in this case, it's more "Ambition makes you pliable". Given that Fromm is the only person who can officially initiate Valkyrie, Beck asks if he can be brought to their side. Tresckow and Olbricht note that Fromm is a "careerist pig" and has never hidden his displeasure at the fact he's gone as far as he can under the Nazis. Beck tells them to offer him a key position in the new regime in exchange for his support. Ironically, it's the fact that his ambition comes a distant second to his cowardice that keeps Fromm out of the conspiracy.
  • And Then What?: Stauffenberg asks this of the conspirators word-for-word after hearing their plan only focuses on removing Hilter, not what comes next. (Also see Didn't Think This Through below)
    Goerdeler: Our only option now is to confront Hitler openly. Force him out.
    Stauffenberg: And then what? [...] I'm simply asking what you intend to do when Hitler is gone. You don't honestly believe you can just walk into the Reich Chancellery and command the army to end the war, do you?
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • Smolensk in March is usually a quagmire of melting snow, ice, and mud.
    • The inaccurate composition of the East Prussian forests surrounding the Wolf's Lair.
  • Artistic License – History: Numerous.
    • Henning von Tresckow was still a colonel at the time of the failed plan to blow up Hitler's airplane.
      • Tresckow's bomb was depicted as hidden inside a single bottle of Cointreau (orange liqueur). In reality, there were two bottles of cognac that contained bombs.
    • In the morning whilst shaving, Stauffenberg deliberately cuts himself with the blade; it's an excuse to "change his clothes" in the base (in reality a chance to arm the explosives), because the film couldn't portray him sweating.
    • One of the most glaring violations is during the lead-up to the assassination attempt: Major Freyend diverts Stauffenberg from the bunker with the excuse that it's too hot — true to life, it was indeed a sweltering mid-July day, but nobody was going into the bunker since it was undergoing structural reinforcement carried out by slave workers. For the sake of differentiation, Stauffenberg had performed a dry run in there on the 15th.
    • Berlin also seems to look remarkably pristine, despite the fact that it had been subjected to countless Allied air raids before the plot was even put into motion.
    • The plot did not come as close to success as the movie suggests. It was probably doomed to failure after Hitler survived the bomb. Certainly the failure to arrest any of the key Nazis in Berlin or seize communications robbed the plotters of any chance of success.
    • At the beginning of the film, Hitler flies to the Eastern Front in a Junkers Ju 52. However, his personal plane at the time was a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 (none of which survived the war, save one wreck that was eventually turned into a museum exhibit).
    • Speaking of the Ju 52, Stauffenberg actually flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111.
    • General Ludwig Beck is depicted wearing civilian clothes during the coup. He was actually wearing his uniform.
    • Goebbels indeed prepared a cyanide pill in case Remer arrested him. However, it was in his pocket instead of his mouth.
    • Controversially, the film downplays Claus von Stauffenberg's anti-Semitic and nationalistic views, depicting him as a relatively apolitical German patriot who wanted to save Germany from Hitler. While he was not a member of the Nazi party and was disgusted by the Holocaust, he was still a committed German nationalist but felt (quite rightly) that Hitler was going too far and was militarily incompetent.
  • Artistic License – Military: As garrisoned troops, the Reserve Army would not go on alert with their full combat kit.
  • Assassination Attempt: The film centers on a dramatized depiction of the Thursday 20 July 1944 attempt by Colonel von Stauffenberg and others to plant a bomb in the Nazis' Wolf's Lair headquarters to kill Adolf Hitler and his generals. They almost succeed.
  • Author Appeal: In-Universe, the conspirators capitalize on Hitler's well-known love of Richard Wagner and Teutonic mythology by selecting "Operation Valkyrie" as the name for a document that will give his assassins control of the government, correctly guessing that the name will distract him from actually checking the document in depth.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In the plot of this film, the bad guys do win. Hitler survives, the German resistance is destroyed, and the war continues. In the longer run the Nazis lost of course, leaving the conspirators' deaths to not completely be in vain, in showing the world there were some junior military officers (the conspiracy was also known as the 'Colonels Plot', since none of them had the rank of General and each commanded 1,000 men or fewer) and low-level politicians willing to risk everything to stop Hitler.
  • Batman Gambit: The conspirators took a big risk assuming The Fuehrer wouldn't take a close look at the Valkyrie Order revision before signing it. Typically for him, and fortunately for them, he doesn't.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: How Stauffenberg bluffs his way past a checkpoint at the Wolf's Lair (he pretends to call Field Marshal Keitel).
  • Big Bad: Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party and the wartime German government.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: When Stauffenberg arrives to get Hitler's signature for the Valkyrie revision, the upper echelon of The Third Reich are all present: Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Keitel and Speer. All of them regard him suspiciously. Definitely adds to the tension of the scene.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: Just about all the characters are part of the Nazi government, and the workings of said government are very, very plot important.
  • Big Good: Ludwig Beck, the leader of the German resistance. Even when Stauffenberg assumes control of field operations, he still acknowledges Beck as his superior and the new head of state of liberated Germany.
  • Codename Title: About the titular operation, which is essentially The Coup hopefully needed to take down the Nazi Party from power within Germany during the middle of World War II.
  • Co-Dragons: Hitler has a whole collection of these. The ones we see in the film are Himmler, Goebbels, Goering, Keitel, and Speer. Himmler is regarded as the biggest threat out of all of them by the Valkyrie conspirators, who expect him to immediately seize power in the event of Hitler's death, effectively replacing "a madman with a lunatic".
  • Composite Character: Some minor figures were combined in Ian McNeice's character, who is identified as "Pompous General" in the credits.
  • Cyanide Pill: The Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels puts what is obviously a suicide pill in his mouth before being confronted by the German army coming to arrest him, just in case he wasn't able to get out of that situation.
  • Death Glare: Stauffenberg shoots his driver a very venomous one as a warning when he (correctly) suspects this fellow saw the other bomb being covertly discarded during the drive. The intimidation doesn't succeed.
  • Decapitation Strike: Colonel von Stauffenberg, in collusion with several other German officers and politicians, stashes a bomb in the Wolfsschanze, the Nazi German military headquarters, during a 1944 meeting headed by Hitler. Though some generals and officers are killed, Hitler himself survives, and promptly orders his Schutzstaffel to arrest and execute the conspirators.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Friedrich Fromm makes it plain from the off he won't support them while Hitler is alive, quickly abandons and tries to arrest them when it becomes apparent Hitler is still alive and then, in an ultimately futile bid to save his own skin, has the conspirators hastily court-martialled and shot, contravening direct orders from Hitler that they be taken alive.
    • Stauffenberg considers Goerdeler this because of his reluctance to kill Hitler in favor of a political solution to remove him.
    Stauffenberg: [to Goerdeler] You don't have the courage to kill Hitler, so you are making the task impossible!
    • While Stauffenberg tries to recruit Fellgiebel into the conspiracy, he angrily accuses the conspirators of being this in a bid to save their own skins now that the war is clearly a lost cause. His own remarks about the pointlessness of trying it could also paint him in this trope.
    Erich Fellgiebel: [to Stauffenber] You're nothing but rats jumping from a sinking ship! What makes you think you'll be any different?! What makes you think you're stronger than the people?! The Reich?! The very momentum of history!
  • Didn't Think This Through: Stauffenberg implies this to Treskcow, pointing out that even if they succeed in removing Hitler, they haven't dealt with the more fanatical elements of the Nazi regime that will remain into account.
    Von Stauffenberg: They're confusing respect with popularity. The army swore an oath, an oath that won't just die with Hitler. How are you going to deal with Goebbels, Himmler, the SS?! They will wipe you out!
  • Disaster Dominoes: The plot fails due to the briefing being held in the conference hut rather than the bunker, Stauffenberg being interrupted before he can arm the second bomb, and Colonel Brandt moving the briefcase to the other side of a table leg between him and Hitler. It's generally agreed that if any of these three things had not happened, Hitler would have been killed.
  • Downer Ending: Stauffenberg and all the conspirators are rounded up and executed. However, it ends up being a Bittersweet Ending in the long run, as the war in Europe is on its last legs and the Nazis will be defeated, while Stauffenberg is immortalized as a national hero.
  • Dragon Ascendant: The possibility of such (specifically, Himmler) is a great concern to the conspirators and their plans.
  • Dramatic Irony: During Stauffenberg's visit to Hitler's Berghof residence in Bavaria, Hitler praises Stauffenberg for his sacrifices as a soldier and wishes that more of his men were like him. If only there were! At this time, Stauffenberg is planning an assassination of Hitler and a coup d'etat against his regime for its excesses.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Ludwig Beck, when captured, asks for a pistol. As he was a civilian and not active military at that point, he was actually placed under arrest rather than immediately sentenced to death by court martial, but he was well aware that he would have been put in front of the Volksgerichtshof and put to death in perhaps a week anyway. In Real Life, he shot himself in the head twice and still didn't die. The guard had to finish him off.
    • Henning von Tresckow, who holds a grenade underneath his chin. Truth in Television because he really did do this (after firing pistols into the air to give the appearance of being shot at by partisans) in order to make it look like he had been killed in the war, to save his family the shame of watching his execution.
    • Joseph Goebbels was prepared with a cyanide capsule... just in case Major Remer decided to proceed with the coup and arrest him anyway.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: The hero, Claus von Stauffenberg. Standing tall, unrepentant, unbowed, unafraid... he declares "Long Live Sacred Germany!" with his final breath. Died like an absolute champ... and this is exactly how he really died.
  • Enemy Mine: Erwin von Witzleben invokes this, suggesting that at this stage in the game, they could just sit back and leave the task of dealing with the Nazis to the Allies. Goerdeler shoots it down, pointing out that Hitler is spiteful enough to drag all of Europe down with him rather than admit defeat.
    Witzleben: Gentlemen, I think it's time we faced facts. The Allies are coming, sooner or later. I say we sit back and let them wipe out the Nazis.
    Goerdeler: And ask every living soul in Europe to pay the price? Use your head!
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Guess what Stauffenberg is listening to when he gets the idea for Operation Valkyrie?
  • Even Evil Has Standards: What drives the entire plot. The German officer corps may be full of racists and militarists in the vein of Stauffenberg and Rundstedt, but they're not genocidally racist like Manstein and Guderian.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Ian McNeice's character shouting at the top of his lungs that Hitler is alive after he is taken for arrest. Also, Judge Reisler's trial was truly scenery-chewing in real life, but was actually toned down for the film.
  • Evil Is Petty: Fromm makes it plain he doesn't mind looking the other way so long as Keitel, who has spent a good part of the film's first half chewing him out and humiliating him, gets what's coming to him.
    Fromm: I don't know what you're brewing up and I don't want to know. But when the music stops, I'd be obliged if Keitel found himself without a chair.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: Truth in Television. Cruise actually spent months learning to work with the eyepatch, and stated that while he found it difficult to work with, he acknowledged the real Von Stauffenberg would have found it difficult as well.
  • Fat Bastard:
    • Hermann Göring, whose small appearance consists of lounging around a lunch table like a fat pig. Which actually sums up his role in World War II quite nicely.
    • While Stauffenberg and Fromm are explaining to Hitler the necessity of updating Operation Valkyrie in the wake of the Normandy landings, Hitler tells him Goering has assured him the Luftwaffe can handle them. Goering smirks complacently, while Goebbels, who has a more realistic view, gives a sour look.
  • A Father to His Men: In the opening, Stauffenberg's only concern is that his men get out of Africa alive. When the British attack, he helps a subordinate into a Kübelwagen before trying to get away.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Hitler's politeness is entirely superficial, and only lasts as long as he's in a good mood. When he's in the Wolf's Lair getting bad news from his generals, his entire demeanor changes from soft-spoken and cordial to petulant and nasty.
  • Final Speech: "You may hand us over to the executioner, but in three months' time the disgusted and harried people will bring you to book, and drag you alive through the dirt in the streets." Nothing of the sort happened to Judge Freisler, whom the comment was directed at. In fact, he died during the American bombing of Berlin while conducting the trial of Fabian von Schlabrendorff — a bomb fell through the open roof in the middle of the trial and blew him up. A worker in the hospital when the body was brought in commented "It was God's verdict." Even more awesome (and hilarious) was that not a single person present responded negatively to this comment.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Even those unfamiliar with the assassination plot itself should know this. The assassination of Hitler fails, and all of the conspirators are executed by the government.
  • For Want Of A Nail: The July plotters actually make two attempts to kill Hitler before initiating 'Operation Valkyrie' (some of them, such as Treskcow, had made attempts even before the plan took its current form). The first time, the Reserve Army has already been mobilized and Stauffenberg is at the Wolf's Lair with the bombs and calling for confirmation, but the civilian leaders of the conspiracy are hesitant to go for it without Himmler at the meeting. They finally proceed on the second attempt two weeks later (where Himmler isn't present either), but the meeting between Hitler and his officers has been moved to a cabin outside the bunker.note  If Goerdeler hadn't hesitated at the last second, Stauffenberg's bomb would have certainly killed Hitler.
    • Finally, just putting the second, unarmed, bomb in the suitcase, would've most likely caused it to detonate alongside the other.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: One is performing at a nightclub where Stauffenberg meets other conspirators.
  • Hanging Judge: Judge Roland Freisler. He's actually toned down a bit in the film compared to how he was in real life. Admittedly, he only appears for a few seconds.
  • Headbutting Heroes: Stauffenberg and Goerdeler do not get along. They were also like this in real life, Goerdeler distrusting Stauffenberg due to his socialist connections, and Stauffenberg considering Goerderler to be an out-of-touch reactionary. They also had radically different political views (Stauffenberg was a republican and Goerdeler wanted to restore the Kaiser) and different approaches to the coup (Stauffenberg wanted Hitler dead, Goerdeler wanted him captured and tried.) Their disagreement is believed by some — and implied by the film — to have been part of the reason why the coup failed, as Goerdeler's reluctance and their mutual distrust slowed things down considerably.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Stauffenberg himself had been an enthusiastic supporter of Hitler in the early years, before things got worse.
  • Heroic BSoD: Stauffenberg undergoes this as his office loses more and more contact, with increased indications that Hitler survived.
  • The Hero Dies: Stauffenberg dies for his cause in the end without reaching any of his objectives.
  • Historical Downgrade:
    • In real life, Carl Goerdeler was the central figure of the German resistance to Hitler. The movie downplays his role in favor of emphasizing Colonel Stauffenberg's.
    • Friedrich Fromm actually did support the conspiracy at first, only to back out of it at the last second after the initial failed assassination attempt. In the film, Fromm is opposed to the conspiracy from the start, only keeping silent about it on the off chance that it succeeds and he can reap the benefits.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • The plotters get this in the film. There's no doubt that the plotters were not Nazis, but it's important to remember that the conspiracy was a circle of men with widely disparate interests who were simply unified by their opposition to Hitler. Their motives were unclear and varied from person to person, but for the most part, while almost all of them were horrified by the Holocaust, many were less concerned with ending Hitler's regime than they were with saving Germany from Hitler's ineptitude. They also varied in what they planned to do next, from reactionaries like Goerdeler who wanted to restore a pre-WWI Germany, to democrats like Stauffenberg who were still motivated by racism to keep Germany's wartime holdings, and those such as Treskcow who were primarily motivated by guilt and didn't care about what happened next as long as they did something. The complexity of the plotters' motivation is ignored in the film, both for narrative convenience and to keep the focus on the plot itself.
    • The film leaves out Goerdeler selling out the conspirators who were not initially caught to the Gestapo in a (failed) bid for clemency, which led to the executions of hundreds of anti-Hitler partisans. Made even worse by the fact that he was responsible for convincing a great number of them to join the resistance in the first place. To be fair to him, the confessions were elicited by a prolonged, intense bout of psychological torture, and may have been motivated by a misguided belief that the Gestapo would not have enough time to act on the information before Berlin was captured.
    • Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorff, Berlin's Chief of Police. Although a minor character, he's portrayed heroically for siding with Stauffenberg and receives a postscript notifying viewers about his fate alongside the other, more prominent conspirators. Unmentioned in the film is that von Helldorff was a member of the Nazi Party who was close friends with Joseph Goebbels, and had earlier masterminded round-ups and pogroms of Jews in Berlin, including a key role in organizing Kristallnacht in 1938. In fairness, Helldorf had turned against Hitler and contacted the Resistance by 1944, although his motives remain unclear. In any case, von Helldorff was ultimately executed for his alleged involvement.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Otto Remer, the commander of the Reserve battalion, is portrayed as a Punch-Clock Villain who follows orders and switches sides without showing any evident sympathy towards either side. In reality, Remer was a fanatical Nazi who later founded the Socialist Reich Party in postwar West Germany, an openly fascist group that was later outlawed by the government. He also became an early proponent of Holocaust denial, funded neo-Nazi groups and was arrested as late as 1992 for incitement of racial hatred. On the DVD commentary, Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie admit that they downplayed Remer's personal fascism, partly to make him a more compelling character and partly to enhance the film's suspense (as there'd be little doubt which side he'd ultimately take if he was a Hitler loyalist from the start).
  • Hope Spot: When Operation Valkyrie is initiated by Olbricht. The plan was to assassinate Hitler and then declare a state of emergency-the Wehrmacht would arrest the entire SS, Gestapo, and Nazi Party leadership. A military junta would take control, officially to safeguard Hitler's legacy but in reality to end the war against the British and Americans. The Hope Spot is where this succeeds, and the German army seizes control; simultaneously a CMOA. It lasts until Hitler reveals himself to be alive.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: A notable aversion in that the majority of the cast does not speak English with a German accent to represent speaking German. All actors use their natural accents with the exception of British actor David Bamber, who plays Hitler with a German accent, as the filmmakers believed the audience would find it distracting if Hitler spoke in anything other than a German accent.
  • Kangaroo Court: Based on the real life People's Court, ruled by Roland Freisler.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • While he may not have done anything overtly villainous, the fact that Major Remer was not arrested and executed is rather surprising. Granted, he was used as an unwitting dupe, but the fallout that followed was so extreme that anyone with a passing connection to the plot was brutally executed (even Erwin Rommel, was forced to kill himself, not because he was involved in the plot in any way, but just because he probably knew about it and didn't tell anybody). Otto Remer survived the war, went on to found a Nazi successor party that engaged in Holocaust denial (before West Germany banned it), aided Arab states fighting Israel, and died in 1997. Remer was likely spared because he undid the entire plot. Assuming he hadn't believed Goebbels and arrested him rather than permitting him to put him on the phone with Hitler, it might have gone very differently...
    • Friedrich Fromm was not as lucky. Nobody bought the idea that he summarily executed the conspirators out of loyalty for even a second. Even though it could never be proved that he was in on the conspiracy, he was still charged with failing to act, with the added ignobility of being stripped of his rank and kicked out of the military, meaning he was executed as a civilian.
    • Eventually averted with Roland Freisler, who died in his own courtroom during an Allied bombing raid when he went back to retrieve some documents on the defendant whose trial was being held there, and was either blown up by the explosion or crushed when the ceiling collapsed on him. He was the only fatality of the bombing raid, and when Freisler's body was brought to the hospital, a worker gave the supremely badass observation, "God has delivered His verdict."
  • La Résistance: Unusually for this trope, this movie focuses on the German resistance during World War II rather than that of the occupied countries.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Fromm's odious attempt to cover up his duplicity did not fool the Gestapo. He was executed the next year.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Fromm's reason to summarily execute everyone involved, in an attempt to hide his own role in the failed coup. Ultimately, it did not save him. Hitler had ordered the conspirators to be captured alive so they could be interrogated, which Reimer specifically brought up to Fromm only to be ignored. It was just too blatant a cover-up.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: When Olbricht and Stauffenberg attempt to recruit Fromm a little too openly, he reminds them they are bound by oath to serve the Fuhrer. He then disconnects the (presumably bugged) phone and tells the pair he will overlook what they just said on the understanding they never do so in his presence again.
  • Master Race: To be expected in a film regarding the Nazis. The best example is in the lead up to the actual bomb attempt, when Stauffenberg overhears Keitel tell a junior officer the strategy meeting has been moved forward by an hour because Mussolini is arriving later that day and Hitler wants to have lunch with him. When Stauffenberg asks if Mussolini will be joining them for the briefing, Keitel replies that he wishes so, if only so some officer might do them all a favor and "take the opportunity to shoot that dago bastard!"
  • Moe Greene Special: The reason for Stauffenberg's Eye Patch Of Power.
  • Nazi Nobleman: Subverted. Unsurprisingly given the attention to accuracy, the film's protagonist and several of the other plotters are aristocrats.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Throughout the short-lived coup, Stauffenberg insists on this despite the fact that, as in Real Life, Hitler is Not Quite Dead.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Von Tresckow, when Colonel Brandt suggests they take a drink from the Cointreau bottle (which is false and contains the bomb). Especially after Brandt gave a spiel with vague references to traitors. Tresckow smoothly talks his way out of it.
    • Beck, Goerdeler and Witzleben exchange a look that screams this when Olbricht points out any changes they make to Valkyrie to suit their needs will require Hitler's approval.
    • Fromm, when he realizes Olbricht and Stauffenberg are there to recruit him for the resistance, in his office in the middle of the day, surrounded by countless soldiers and other officers loyal to the Nazi Party.
    • Fromm gets another one when the plot starts. He calls Wolfsschanze and speaks to Keitel, who informs him of the failed assassination attempt. Then, Keitel asks where Stauffenberg is, making Fromm realize that the plot is already traced to his office.
    • Major Remer when he realizes who's at the other end of the phone line.
    • Stauffenberg, when he learns, after arming a single pack of Plastic W, that the meeting is taking place in the open conference hut instead of the enclosed bunker.
    • Stauffenberg when he lands in Berlin and finds out the coup has not started.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The central communications officer handling the military orders during the coup. He refuses to take a side and is so bent on remaining neutral that when presented with a Morton's Fork, he sends through both orders. Finally, he blocks communications from Stauffenberg.
  • Pet the Dog: Hitler at the Berghof does this, literally.
  • Poor Communication Kills: General Felgiebel attempts to tell Olbricht that Hitler survived, but only says, "Something terrible has happened-" before getting cut off by static. Olbricht is left unsure of what happened, and decides not to do anything until Stauffenberg can report in person.
  • Precision F-Strike: "The point of replacing Hitler is to negotiate a truce with the Allies. The Allies, I suspect, would be more amenable to a truce if we offered it to them before they get to fucking Berlin!"
  • Punch-Clock Villain:
    • Major Remer, who carries out Operation Valkyrie and is manipulated by both sides. In the very end, he arrests Stauffenberg without any enthusiasm at all (in fact the real Remer was an enthusiastic Nazi who went on to found pro-Nazi parties in West Germany and advocate Holocaust denial).
    • Stauffenberg used to be this before joining the German resistance.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The shootout at the end seems thrown in just for dramatic purposes... but that really did happen.
    • Colonel von Stauffenberg's supremely badass exit from the mortal realm was actually toned down from the truth, calmly awaiting his execution and uttering his defiant last words (sources dispute whether he said "Long live the sacred Germany!" or "Long live the secret Germany".) The film omits the fact that he refused an offer of morphine because he was afraid of getting addicted, because the filmmakers didn't want to make it look like they were trying to turn Stauffenberg into a Hollywood action hero (although he pretty much was one).
    • Ludwig Beck's death was much more painful than the film portrays it, in real life he shot himself in the head twice and still had to be finished off by a guard.
    • Roland Freisler, the judge at the conspirators' trial, was also actually toned down for the film: in real life, he was a screaming, ranting lunatic known for bellowing at the defendants at the top of his lungs, and had the conspirators' belts taken away so they would be forced to hold their pants up and he could make crude jokes at their expense. And yes, he really did wear a blood red judge's robe. It also does not mention his supremely ironic death, when he was blown up in his own courtroom during the trial of another anti-Nazi resistance member.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Upon his arrival at the War Ministry, while waiting to see Fromm, Stauffenberg and Olbricht hear the tail end of Keitel giving one to Fromm from outside his office.
    Wilhelm Keitel: I have got better things to do with my time than to come down here and clean up your mess! If you were enough of a man to run this department, then I wouldn't have to do it myself! You're an old woman, Fromm! I'd send you to the front, if I didn't think you'd surrender just to be Montgomery's whore!
  • Record Needle Scratch: In-universe as an impromptu party at the Stauffenberg house is interrupted by an Allied bombing raid, which causes the record needle to jump.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: The music used in the trailers was the main theme from Saw. "Hello, Zepp."
  • Revealing Cover-Up: General Fromm has Colonel von Staufenberg and the other July plotters executed as soon as he and his forces regain control over the War ministry, in order to eliminate any witnesses who can testify that he at least knew that his officers were plotting to get rid of Hitler and that he failed to report this to his own superiors. Staufenberg warns him that "no one will be spared". In the aftermath, Fromm is disgraced, kicked out of the Wehrmacht, and dies in a concentration camp.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: General Fromm ends up executed just like all the other plotters, even though he betrayed them at the last moment. It's pointed out to him that he'll hang just like the rest of them. His treachery only earns him a few extra months of life in the end and a firing squad as opposed to a hangman's noose.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: During the air raid in Africa that costs Stauffenberg his eye and arm.
  • Shown Their Work: When facing the People's Court, Von Witzleben is shown gripping his pants with one hand. While not explained in the movie, the arrested conspirators had their belts confiscated, so that they could not take the more honorable way out. It also gave the judges an opportunity to humiliate the accused by making filthy jokes at their expense...
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Claus and Nina von Stauffenberg already have four kids, but when he leaves to initiate the plot, it is shown that Nina is pregnant with their fifth.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • The assassination attempt is defeated by the weather: it's too hot so Hitler moves the briefing out of the Führerbunker, where the concrete surrounds would have amplified the explosion's pressure wave, and into a more open-plan outbuilding where the windows and weaker walls absorb some of the energy. Colonel Heinz Brandt also moves the briefcase containing the bomb to the other side of a table leg, creating an additional barrier between the blast and Hitler, but ironically causing his own death.
    • Von Tresckow's initial attempt on Hitler's life fails when his time bomb is taken on a plane and ices up due to the altitude.
  • Straight Edge Evil: Von Tresckow notes that Hitler doesn't drink in order to shame Colonel Brandt out of opening his fake bottle of liquor.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: "Any problem on Earth can be solved with the careful application of high explosives. The trick is not to be around when they go off."
  • Stupid Neutral: Fromm refuses to either join or inform on the conspiracy until it is too late. As a result, at the critical moment, he is arrested by the conspirators, but is still executed once the coup is put down because he knew about it and didn't tell anybody. By sitting the fence, all he did was ensure that he was on the wrong side of whomever came out successful. The communications office narrowly avoids this when the junior officer points out how ridiculous it is to try to remain neutral during an obvious attempt at a coup.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The Wagnerian record in Stauffenberg's house, which serves as the inspiration for the operation's title. Semi-justified, as the bombing of Stauffenberg's house would logically push back the needle on the record, bringing it to the start again.
  • Tempting Fate: "Hitler's Germany has seen its last sunrise!" Also doubles as Monologuing and a great line for the trailer.
  • This Cannot Be!: A rare heroic example. Stauffenberg simply refuses to believe that Hitler survived the blast, despite mounting evidence to the contrary... because once he admits that, he knows all is lost and they are all as good as dead.
  • This Is Not a Drill: When the Reserve Army is first mobilized, Major Remer says "This better not be a drill!"
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Averted. The only Nazis whose sanity is questioned are Hitler and Himmler. All of the rest are simply fanatics loyal to Hitler or officials loyal to the oath they swore to him.
  • Tranquil Fury: Hitler's voice when giving instructions to Remer.
  • Translation Convention: After an opening transition, everybody speaks perfect English. The written documents are still in German, and during the coup the reserve army troops issue orders in their native tongue. Just a Stupid Accent is mostly averted as Singer felt it wouldn't allow the actors to perform naturally, so the only German-accented characters are the ones actually played by German actors, with the notable exception of Hitler himself.
  • Understatement: While going over the process to arm the explosives, Quirnheim remarks that they'll want to be "very far away" once the acid eats away the wire holding back the firing pin.
  • Unflinching Walk: Subverted. Stauffenberg is only several steps away from the conference hut when the bomb explodes and wheels around in shock in response. He quickly pulls himself together to get his ride back to Berlin. In Real Life, Stauffenberg and Haeften were standing by their car several feet away when the bomb exploded.
  • Un-person: Fromm refers to Von Stauffenberg as "the colonel whose name I will not mention" when the conspirators are arrested and sentenced.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Beck describes the plan for how the plotters will seize power after Hitler's assassination, complete with a montage of everybody performing their assigned roles, so it goes without saying that every step will misfire.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Remarked upon by the leader of the Berlin section of the German Army. As they started getting conflicting orders, he realized it was a coup and he wasn't sure which side he was on.
  • Valkyries: Discussed. The real-life plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler is disguised as a mobilization order named "Valkyrie" to take over the German government after Hitler's death, which he himself has to sign off on. Stauffenberg presents the plan in person, and Hitler glances cursorily at the pages without a proper reading. He refers to Wagner and speaks of the Valkyries' nature, and signs off on the plan simply because the name pleased him.
  • V-Formation Team Shot: The theatrical poster.
  • The Watson: Carl Goerdeler, whose ignorance of what Operation Valkyrie is and why General Fromm is important allows the others to get some important exposition across.


Video Example(s):


German becomes English

Stauffenberg starts out speaking German, but the language being spoken on-screen changes to English (text remains in German, however).

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / TranslationConvention

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