Sunday, February 9

The Monuments Men Review

The Monuments Men
Dir: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett

“The Monuments Men” was written and directed by George Clooney and continues his streak of crafting movies that harken back to Hollywood’s more classical approach to filmmaking structure. With an interesting ensemble of terrific actors, Clooney sets out to make an uplifting historical film about the fight/hunt to retain artistic works from the Nazi’s. While there are uplifting and lighthearted moments the film has a difficult time finding a tone and becomes uneven resulting in a film that has significant promise but falters in the final execution.

The film revolves around the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program. The focus is on a group of artists, architects, and historians who ban together to search for and recovery art during War World II that Hitler is stealing for his own museum. Frank Stokes (George Clooney) is tasked with organizing and leading a small group to join with Armed Forces throughout Europe. These men are not soldiers but rather civilians who are quickly trained and sent into enemy territory and, in some instances posed by the film, without much cooperation by military personnel.

“The Monuments Men” is based on true events but the characters are fictional representations of the people actually involved in the military program. George Clooney and his producing partner Grant Heslov wrote the script and Clooney, capable enough, directs the film with a mix of thematic tones. The film begins with a stirring introduction of dismantled art amidst a war torn soundtrack but soon shifts into a lighthearted, somewhat comedic, meet and greet with the ensemble cast. This movement of mood continues throughout the film, in one moment the group is cheerfully bantering with one another and another moment they are beset with the atrocities of war. While one argument could defend this constant shift as a resemblance of how one might deal with the emotional stress of being in constant danger, the narrative never makes that connection. Instead the changes in the narrative overlook character development and the narrative never hits a stride of establishing itself but instead resembles little pieces of the comedy of “M.A.S.H.”, the suspense of “The Train”, and the character aspects of “Saving Private Ryan”.

The cast is a collective of excellent actors but most are underutilized and only a few are given room to challenge. Still, the cast offers some interesting moments. Clooney again offers his leading man charm to the role but is limited to a few invigorating speeches. Bill Murray and Bob Balaban are most amusing but are rarely on screen for any length of time that would properly develop their characters, the exception being one emotional scene involving Murray and his family at Christmastime. Damon and Blanchett are given the most room to explore, and Blanchett is quite good as a standoffish French museum record keeper who helps in tracking the Nazi’s.

“The Monuments Men” is mostly lighthearted, staying well away from realistic violence and the in depth exploration of the psychological aspects that war films venture towards. Clooney tries to operate the many moving parts of this film but it mostly runs away with him. Still, amidst the errors lies the redeeming quality of a story purposed with offering an uplifting message of the importance of art and the recognition of history.

Monte’s Rating

2.50 out of 5.00

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