Review of 'The Monuments Men'

monuments_men.jpg It is 1943 and as World War 2 wages on Frank Stokes (George Clooney) persuades the US president that a team should be put together, “The Monuments Men”, to prevent the destruction and loss of precious works of art, literature, and architecture. This team is formed of seven museum directors, curators and art historian from both America and Europe to both educate troops on how best to protect these pieces but also to find and return stolen art to it's rightful owners. The group are not exactly fighting fit as they are put through basic training then afterwards are split up to be posted across Europe. Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) track down a set of stolen Belgian altarpiece panels, Walter Garfield (John Goodman) and Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) find themselves in the front line while Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) of the British Army attempts to prevent the theft of a Michelangelo statue of Madonna and Child from a church in Belgium. In France art curator Claire Simon (Cate Blanchett) is documenting art being “acquired” by the Germans when it is unexpectedly shipped away in trains by her German commander boss. Monument man James Granger (Matt Damon) is posted in Paris to convince the mistrusting Claire to tell them where the art has gone. It is found that Hitler is accumulating vast amounts of art from around Europe, most through the persecuted Jewish families, for his “Führer Museum” in Linz and what the Germans do not like is destroyed with orders to destroy the entire collection on the death of the führer. Eventually the team find where the art is being taken with a scale beyond anything any of them could have expected.

Based on a true story this is an action romp that does not quite know what note to strike with the fate of those whose art they are recovering is only touched upon. The tragedy and atrocity of what is actually happening is not fully explored. Here the emphasis is more on the mystery of tracking down the art and the specific characters in the team. Despite the number of comedian actors in the cast the humour is kept fairly low key with even the often gregarious Bill Murray and John Goodman quite restrained as the play quiet and minor roles (perhaps here a touch of underutilised talent). As the story follows the separate team members travelling around Europe it is somewhat fragmented consisting of a number of vignettes where the team and story comes together only at the beginning where the team is assembled and at the end when they discover the vast stores of stolen art. There are the occasional scenes of action but these are not action heroes which, to be fair, the film takes pains to point out - Art conservators put into an extreme situation in a mad race to save our heritage.

Yeah, it is an OK film but quite a slow burner. There are some nice scenes here but it is missing any amount of depth that really engages. So, generally, disappointing.

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2017-02-19

Directed by: George Clooney

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Year: 2014

Length: 118 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by George Clooney: