The Monuments Men, a historical drama written, directed by and starring George Clooney, follows a group of men tasked with finding and saving art stolen by Hitler during World War two.
The apparently true story that this movie tells has not gotten much mention in American history books. It is safe to say, not many people know that during World War two, Hitler stole artwork from France, Belgium and other European countries, wanting to create his own museum to house the best of Europe’s treasured masterpieces. According to this movie, a band of seven men, five of whom were American, the other two being French and British, risk their lives to save these paintings and sculptures.
The movie, a solid two hours, follows the many adventures these Monuments Men face when tracking down the missing art. You guessed it; Clooney is the leader of the band and the man with a plan. With Clooney at the helm and his trusty sidekick Matt Damon along for the ride, it feels more like a 1940s rendition of Ocean’s 11, complete with snappy music and the ultimate grand heist. The only main difference being that instead of composing his team of attractive young gents, Clooney’s character picks older, washed up art nerds. John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Bill Murray play three of the wizened characters, while Hugh Bonneville, who you might recognize as the patriarchal figure in Masterpiece Theater’s Downton Abby, rounds it off at as the fifth elderly gentleman of the group. Instead of Julia Roberts or Catherine Zeta Jones, Cate Blanchett plays the smart and gutsy female protagonist.
For a movie based during World War two, it lacks a sense of the gravity most viewers are accustomed to from movies dealing with that era. While certainly unable to be classified as a comedy, the film never truly gives a sense of the seriousness of the world’s situation during that time. Maybe it is because of Clooney’s rarely serious face, or perhaps it is because of the comical performances of Goodman and Murray who seem unable to help being humorous. The whole film is handled in a jovial sort of manner that leaves the audience feeling slightly undersold.
Perhaps Clooney wanted it that way. After all, the focus of this story is on the historical and cultural value of artwork and the men who risked their lives to preserve that. Yet, for a movie about the importance of art, it was not very artistic. The whole execution of the film was standard, basic. The soundtrack was peppy, not beautiful. The cinematography was average, not breathtaking. Even the coloring of the film was slightly washed out. There was nothing about it that hinted at art, apart from the pieces of artwork that graced the screen every now and then, between close ups of Clooney’s thoughtful, albeit resplendently mustachioed face.
This movie has merit for bringing to light the untold tale of the Monuments Men, but it certainly is not a film for everyone. If you are into history and George Clooney, have two hours to kill and want a puzzling ethical dilemma to ponder, this is the movie for you. Everyone else: just read a synopsis for the historical facts.