Recently, my son Caleb was commenting on a submarine simulation game he had seen. It was a computer game that pitted German U-Boats against Allied naval forces during World War II. Caleb mentioned the game was quite interesting, that it introduced concepts of operating a real submarine. He had never before understood the concepts of ballast, ocean currents, navigation, trajectory, relative positioning, etc.
OK, Caleb didn’t really notice these things – I did. To Caleb, the simulation was just fun. That is, with one exception. He was a bit troubled that he had to be the German commander and that his objectives were to sink Allied vessels – and to stay alive. This allowed me to share with Caleb the fact that not all of the German populace and not all of the military during the Second World War were Nazis. Most were just fighting for their country. They were as patriotic as the Americans or the British. Many of them were Christians and many opposed the regime, some openly. Some acted.
I had this discussion in my mind as Stacy and I sat and watched the new military thriller, Valkyrie, last night. Valkyrie details the true story of an oft forgotten band of courageous German officers who attempted to halt the Nazi madness by assassinating Adolph Hitler. The story revolves around the main character in the plot, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, played by Tom Cruise, who is opposed to Hitler and his wickedness.
Though Cruise has chosen the cultish path of Scientology, God still saw fit to use him in Valkyrie for His own glory. This motion picture portrays a solid Christian worldview where the main character, Stauffenberg, speaks of acting on principle; he has no patience with those who are motivated by or trust in their own popularity. We are presented with an honorable man—a man of faith. Stauffenberg is a man who loves his family, loves his country, and loves what is right. And Cruise does an excellent job in this role.
While the movie does not take the time to develop the characters as deeply as I would have liked, especially in Stauffenberg’s family relationships, the godly character of Stauffenberg’s family still manages to shine through.
Stauffenberg’s love for his wife is convincing. As the coup is being played out in Berlin, with Stauffenberg at the helm, you can see the emotional pain in his eyes as he repeatedly tries to reach his wife on the telephone. Sadly, his attempts are in vain. And her commitment to him, after he was severely wounded in North Africa (Stauffenberg lost part of his right arm, his left eye, and two fingers on his left hand) is a picture of unconditional devotion. And his children adore him.
We also see subtle elements of Stauffenberg’s faith, not only in the cross he wears (which is shown in close up at least twice) and his attendance at church (a hauntingly beautiful and tragic scene of worship in the midst of a bombed out cathedral), but in the proclamation of others. One of the co-conspirators, Major-General Henning von Tresckow (played by Kenneth Branagh), said to Stauffenberg, “God promised Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if he could find ten righteous men… I have a feeling that for Germany it may come down to one.”
Here are a group of men who act on their convictions. While we can certainly argue that the course of action was foolhardy, reckless, and perhaps even unbiblical, one thing we see is that they courageously act.
Though history revealed to us the end of the movie before we ever entered the cinema, it didn’t detract from the suspense or emotion of the film. I had prepared myself for the cheerless ending of the men who valiantly pursued their course. Nevertheless, I was pleased to find that the superb cast and the masterful directing of Bryan Singer maintained a tension that kept me riveted to the story to the end.
Unlike most Hollywood productions, Valkyrie has few offensive elements. There is little cursing. I noted one troubling use of the “f” word, possibly intentionaly added to secure the PG-13 rating some believe to be a necessity, yet still a record low for a modern war movie. There is no sex or nudity. There are brief and tasteful kisses between Stauffenberg and his wife, and another scene where a couple was kissing in some background scene (I actually never noticed this, though I was told it was there). As the setting of the film is World War II, there are violent scenes of war and executions, but even here the violence is handled as carefully as possible. This is certainly not a typical Hollywood bloodfest. I have seen “Christian” films with more gore. A refreshing change.
I recommend this film to those who seek to be challenged in their faith. As I said to Caleb in our discussions concerning the submarine simulation, good men, Christian men, live in difficult times. We face challenging times today. The question we must always ask is this – is our faith strong enough to stand against wickedness? And is our trust in God such that we will fear Him more than man?
Edmund Burke’s famous quote is fitting here. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”