These days, it is impossible to watch a Tom Cruise movie without thinking of what it might mean to the movie star himself. Two years ago, his Mission: Impossible character got married, around the time Cruise himself got hitched to Katie Holmes. Then, after his antics on Oprah's show and elsewhere got him in trouble with the media and with the powers that be at Paramount, forcing him to look for work elsewhere, he played a hotshot politician who criticizes a reporter to her face in Lions for Lambs and a foul-mouthed studio mogul who has zero sympathy for the people that work for him in Tropic Thunder. Now comes Valkyrie, the second film to be made by United Artists since Cruise took the reins at that struggling studio, and over the past year, thanks to constantly shifting release dates and rumors of reshoots, the film has acquired the reputation of a "troubled" production. It is tempting, then, to read an element of autobiography into the film, as Cruise plays a wounded German officer who is already unpopular with the Nazi high command when he joins in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler—a plot that we know is doomed to fail.
Cruise isn't the only one whose career has been stumbling lately, though. Valkyrie is also the first film that director Bryan Singer has made since his Superman movie came out two years ago and failed to live up to many people's expectations—and there is a sense in which Singer seems to be trying to get back to his roots, teaming up with screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie for the first time since their Oscar-winning breakthrough The Usual Suspects came out thirteen years ago. Like that film, this new film (which McQuarrie co-wrote with Nathan Alexander) involves several men who collaborate ...1