He groaned at Valkyrie and despaired at Saving Private Ryan. The award-winning historian takes aim at the conflict cinemas that attain him furious and uncovers his own favourite
For a very long time now, my wife has refused to watch a conflict movie with me. This is because I cannot stop grinding my teeth with annoyance at major historical mistakes, or harrumphing over corrects of period detail. She only made an exception when Valkyrie came out, with Tom Cruise playing Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg. Such a absurdity of miscasting was bound to be a hoot, and we were not disappointed, specially when Cruise honoured in that downward cutaway style as if he were still in Top Gun. But I was soon grinding away again when the administrator and screenwriter felt compelled to improve on history, by making it seem as if the 20 July plot to blow up Hitler had still very nearly succeeded.
I despair at the behavior American and British movie-makers feel they have every right to play fast and loose with the facts, yet have the arrogance to imply that their version is as good as the truth. Continental film-makers are on the whole far more scrupulous. The German film Downfall, about Hitler’s last days in the bunker, respected historical events and recreated them accurately.
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