Achtung! 'Valkyrie' hailed

Most German critics applaud World War II film

After a year of Sturm und Drang in Germany surrounding Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie," German critics largely have embraced the finished film.

In a sign of the anticipation and trepidation that surrounds the project — which tells the story of a failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler — local critics rushed to opine on "Valkyrie" immediately after the film's world premiere in New York this week.

Controversy has dogged "Valkyrie" and star Tom Cruise — who plays would-be Hitler assassin Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg — from the start. In addition to reports, real and rumored, of on-set mishaps, shooting bans and lawsuits, there was a firestorm of protest in the German media. Most of it centered on Cruise's association with the Church of Scientology and whether he could be trusted with the Stauffenberg story.

"Mr. Cruise go home!" bellowed Stauffenberg's son Berthold Graf Stauffenberg in one headline.

Now the tone has changed. Although there have been some nasty reviews — "with his performance, Tom Cruise has finally destroyed his reputation as an actor," sniped one Berlin critic — the majority have applauded "Valkyrie" both as a history lesson and as a film.

"Maybe not the masterpiece we might have dreamed of … but not much less," said Tobias Kniebe of broadsheet Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a sentiment shared by many German critics.

While Stauffenberg's son hasn't yet given his verdict, his sister, Konstanze von Schulthess-Rechberg, who attended the New York premiere, declared Singer's film "a success."

"Valkyrie" opens wide Christmas Day in North America and Jan. 22 in Germany. (partialdiff)