About a year from now, a movie titled Valkyrie is slated for American release. Right now, the film is being filmed on location in Berlin, Germany. It's a docudrama about the failed attempt by German army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944. It's controversial, but not for the reason you might think.

You see, the star of the film is Tom Cruise, in the role of Col. Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, the man who planted the bomb. And Cruise is well-known as a spokesman for the Church of Scientology. When the film's producers asked to film at certain historic locations, the German government denied the request, and there have been multiple stories given about whether the denial was due to Cruise's Scientology beliefs or not. If you go to a movie site like IMDb.com that has message boards, you'll find that's just one nexus of controversy. Others are whether it's appropriate for Americans to be delving into German history, and whether Cruise is the right actor for the part of von Stauffenberg.

From a cinematic viewpoint, the movie would appear to be a hard sell to audiences that like to see happy endings where the good guys win. In this case, the "good" Germans who want to get rid of Hitler fail. The bad guys win in this movie, although they do get theirs in the end, of course. Good doesn't always triumph over Evil, but that's what Americans like to see in the theater. Victorious Evil is a buzz-kill.

It's not that Americans have no interest in "lost causes," or there would be no market for books and films about the American Civil War and the Confederacy. However, the von Stauffenberg plot was not our lost cause. From a box office perspective, that may be important. Von Stauffenberg was a hero, but he wasn't our hero.

Letters From Iwo Jima
showed that many Americans are at least willing to see movies that portray our former enemies in a more sympathetic light than they have been shown in the past. That may be due to the fact that most of the combatants from the World War II generation have died off. But are American audiences ready for a World War II movie in which both the heroes and the villains are Germans?

Finally, regarding Scientology: I've heard it said that the difference between a religion and a cult is that the former has universities with football teams. I don't think that Scientology has any universities...