Monday, February 10, 2014


The Second World War is a point in time which will never, ever run out of stories to tell; the event was just too big which affected too many lives. Most of those stories we already now, some we don’t, and some are still yet to be discovered. Director George Clooney’s newest film, THE MONUMENTS MEN, seeks to detail and uncover one of the more obscure footnotes in WWII history; the recovery and rescue of stolen art from the Nazi’s.

In the waning days of WWII, the Nazi’s are under orders to steal and hide artwork; mostly valuable paintings and sculptures, for the purpose of Hitler’s planned art museum. As the war comes to a close, the German armies are under orders to torch that stolen art, and in a race against time, art professor Frank Stokes (George Clooney) assembles a team of fellow art historians and experts (Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville) to rescue and return the art to the rightful owners. Disguised as American troops, the team is assisted by Claire (Cate Blanchett), an art curator once employed by the German army.

THE MONUMENTS MEN has a great start and shows promise as it hits on why it is so important to risk lives to save paintings and statues; saving the art means saving the culture and therefore preserving the future. The basic idea is great, but the film seems to rely on it way too much. The film does no work whatsoever in fleshing out the people who are saving, and dying for the art. The narrative is by-the-numbers, predictable, and insufferably dull. Characters say what they have to do and they go, while never once stopping to bring the audience in. It’s as hollow as a flower vase.

Every great war film succeeds on the strength of the characters, for every war throws together people from all walks of life into a horrible situation. Here, George Clooney fails miserably as not one character is developed past their name and occupation. There is no personality or heart to any one character; each one of them nothing more than a statue in an exhibit as they are nice to look at only.  We don’t care if they succeed or get blown up trying.

The style of the film is an odd balance of drama and comedy. It tries to do both with little success and the film leaves us with no real identity. It tries to be funny and dramatic and adventurous, but the characters and story are so flat it doesn’t succeed anywhere. Clooney also tries to adapt 1940’s styled-filmmaking…where everything from dialogue, delivery, music and pacing comes from a long-forgotten era of filmmaking where things are over-pronounced and heavy-handed. The look of the film is also dull; although it looks crisp and clean (maybe too clean), its cinematography does nothing eye-popping and like everything else, has no real signature.

Acting is a mixed bag as everyone does decently with the little that they have to work with. Cate Blanchett fares the best out of everyone; once again showing her great talent for accents. The biggest problem with the overall acting is that no one’s talent is capitalized on. John Goodman’s comic-timing, Matt Damon’s intensity, even Clooney’s own charisma is never tapped into. And worst of all, the great Bill Murray becomes the most boring person in the world.

THE MONUMENTS MEN doesn’t bother to raise the stakes or hit any sort of a pulse until the final 15 minutes…which by that time is way too late as the audience would have long-since checked out. THE MONUMENTS MEN may be effective in a 12th grade history class, but as a movie it deserves to be on the hot end of a flame-thrower.

1 comment:

  1. I assume you mean "some we already know." And, anyway, I can't pass up a WW2 movie, especially with this cast. Perhaps, after I see it, I'll surrender. But not till then!


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