I just watched Operation Valkyrie (2004) and Valkyrie (2008) . The former is a German film made for TV, the latter, the big budget Tom Cruise movie. Guess which one I liked better?
Yeah, the German one.
They're actually surprisingly similar. Both run through the events, without much background or detail, but the German film brought in more of the character motives, and it felt more fleshed out. It was also tighter and, to me, more emotional. Tom Cruise didn't do a bad job, but Sebastian Koch as Stauffenberg was much more interesting and... animated? than Cruise. I definitely believed in him and his determination. I can't say that about Tom Cruise's portrayal. I liked almost all the German actors in the key roles better than the big budget version. There was this solidarity and emotion to them that the same characters in Valkyrie lacked. Operation Valkyrie version also was, oddly, easier to follow. Which seems odd, as I thought it moved too quickly, and I would have loved another half hour. But seeing its counterpart, Valkyrie gave out no more information (and in some cases, less) and wasted time with a lot of excess "pretty" shots... troops mobilizing, long driving shots, and annoying "this is what's going to happen if we stick to the plan" visuals as plans were explained. etc. Just let me watch it as it happens! I don't need previews to understand what you're telling me. Operation Valkyrie cut to the chase, and I appreciated that. I also preferred listening to the dialog in German.
I did watch the German film first, so I have to wonder if I would feel differently had I watched them the other way around? No, probably not, because Operation Valkyrie was still tighter, and still better acted, and had better music. Valkyrie has that heavy-handed dirge-like music, the kind that pounds you over the head with "pay attention, the good guys are losing, feel bad now!" Blech.
Valkrie did have the always wonderful Ken Brannagh and also Thomas Kretschmann, though Ken was only really in the beginning and Thomas only in the end (but yowza! he got to have a swimming scene, so I'm not complaining too much about his lack of screen time).
But Operation Valkyrie had Hardy Kruger Jr., who is Hardy Kruger's son and also a very handsome and fine actor. I really enjoyed watching him. He had a pretty large role, so that made me happy. I'd love to catch him in other things.