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Good, old-fashioned anti-Hollywood sentiment has dogged the making of Valkyrie, director Bryan Singer's cinematic retelling of the 1944 Stauffenberg assassination attempt on Hitler. There's been the usual European indignation and snobbery about America taking on anything "of ours". But most of the criticism has surrounded the central casting of Tom Cruise. Even Stauffenberg's son weighed in when the star's involvement was first announced. "It's bound to be rubbish," he told an interviewer at the time. "He should keep his hands off my father. He should climb a mountain or go surfing in the Caribbean. I don't care what he does, so long as he keeps out of it."

Steady on now. Such vitriolic contempt goes way beyond the call. An expression of wry surprise might have been more dignified, maybe even justified. Stauffenberg Snr was, after all, a tall and charismatic German count. Cruise is 5' 7" on a good PR day, and even at 46, more successfully conjures up the spirit of the high-school prom king, or the can-do eager pup, than that of a European aristocrat steeped in honour and hinterland. I imagine that Stauffenberg Jnr would have preferred a young Jeremy Irons or a Charles Dance perhaps - performers with a finely cultivated, if actor-ish, sense of breeding. But such types are rather thin on the ground these days.

We got Cruise, and it's largely down to him, along with a superbly pared-down narrative, that the film actually works as well as it does. The toothy, sparkly grin is not once to be seen. Even when that sometimes grating brand of Cruise "intensity" rears its head, it is reined in fast. He is sombre. But all this would not in itself be enough. It is Cruise's status as a gold-plated movie star, his screen presence, which brings the character of Stauffenberg alive and underlines his heroic status. In any ensemble scene (and there are many, especially in the first half, as the coup against the Führer is planned) your eyes always drift across the room, past the rather motley contingent of British stalwarts hired to play his co-conspirators - to him. If that was the effect the real man had, then Cruise makes it work for us now.

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