As big studio fiascos go, Valkyrie is not as bad as Australia. At least the poor decisions in Valkyrie are fascinating enough to compel you to watch it to the end.
The most interesting decision is just no accents. No German accents, no universal accents, just everyone's normal voices. The film opens with Tom Cruise speaking German and blending into his normal American voice. Perhaps that's the device, but still, a World War II Nazi movie with Americans, Brits and actual Germans speaking whatever they want?
You don't let that happen by accident. Interesting choice. Could have worked in some concept. Has worked in other period movies. Even more interesting, they use the German spelling of Valkyrie sometimes, but the American word "Operation." That's just weird.
There's no complexity at all. Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is noble right from the beginning. Apparently, he's always seen the error of the Nazi ways, and he speaks for lots of other Nazis. So what got him there in the first place?
It's hard to relate to a "hero" in this situation without addressing any of the moral ambiguity. I'll buy a Nazi realizing he's supported the wrong cause, or one still torn. Making him the generic good guy is useless and irresponsible, but most importantly just plain wussy.
Some of the political strategizing, plotting and execution of plots is well done. At least as far as Thriller 101 goes, they let us know the factors and then play the scenes. The music comes in at the right times and it's silent at the right moments. It's just uninvolving because by an hour into the movie, they've lost you on this character. They've skipped the biggest question of all so there's no way into the story.
They didn't even want to show Cruise saying "Heil Hitler" on screen. The only time he says it, his back is to camera. There's a dramatic reveal that he's saluting with an amputated stump, but that reveal would be the same if he says the words on screen. Even von Stauffenberg is faking it in that scene so you can trust an audience to know that Tom Cruise isn't really saluting the Fuhrer.
At least they made von Stauffenberg's stump actually look shorter than his other arm. Usually you can tell the stump is about the same length, because it's just the actor's hand wrapped in the sleeve. So they figured out how to hide Cruise's arm and make him really look disabled, and they made his fake eye stay still while the other looks around.
It's really interesting to me that Bryan Singer, Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie and all the producers along the way made or approved these decisions. We know the Nazis were bad. Make us feel for one of those. Don't just play noble. Now I don't feel anything. They've skipped the biggest question of all so there's no way into the story.