As a friend knowingly pointed out to me, The Monuments Men could have been titled Oceans 14. It tells the true story of how President Roosevelt sent a league of mostly over-aged art scholars to retrieve some of the most important artwork of our time from Hitler’s troops in Nazi Germany during World War II.
It left me with mixed emotions. This film is an example of what’s important. It is important that we not forget that these guys retrieved priceless artwork – preserving 1,000 years of our history – even if it is a not so well known facet of history. Yet, making a movie about it does not guarantee it’s going to be a good or important film.
The Monuments Men was directed, sometimes clumsily, by its star George Clooney. I had to force myself to push forward and keep interested. Once we got past the premise, I wondered if there was even a compelling story to tell. Not really. I honestly felt like most of the supporting cast, some of whom are very fine actors, were pretty much wasting our time and cashing a check here. Cate Blanchett, who just won Best Actress for a completely different film, just kind of wanders in and out of this picture with a faux French accent. Other usually entertaining co-stars, such as Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Bob Balaban, basically do the zombie version of themselves – just staring, like they think they’re making something great. Unfortunately, they’re not.
Some of Clooney’s editing choices were very ham-handed, including where he even placed the title card at the beginning. I can’t remember the last time something like that was noticeably awkward. There is even a moment that is so wrapped up in an attempted fancy camera move, you’ll mistake the death of one character for another.
I believe as a filmmaker, Clooney was aiming for the triumphant style of older WWII films, like The Great Escape or The Dirty Dozen, but he falls pretty flat here. Honestly, the most rousing thing in this feature is the musical score by Alexandre Desplat. It is very reminiscent of older John Williams or Elmer Bernstein film scores. The very last scene in this film cameos Clooney’s father, with only one line. It’s actually a pretty nice 30 seconds, if that. But it still couldn’t save the film.
If you’re interested in seeing this movie, my best suggestion is wait for it on home video.
An avid film buff, artist and aspiring filmmaker since childhood, Michael moved to the area in 2004 from Bakersfield, CA.