The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys – seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 – possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements.
“If you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed.”
“The Monuments men” is a terribly boring movie. Thank God there were people during the 2nd World War who were concerned about the cultural heritage and with a selfless commitment went to the battlefields of Nazi Germany to recover the looted artworks. It’s a story based on true events, but I still doubt if it was necessary to make a film about those events. In “The Guns of Navarone” they gathered a commando to destroy those damn huge cannons. In “Saving Private Ryan” a group of soldiers got orders to look for a certain Ryan (of course) whose brothers been killed on the battlefield. In “The Monuments Men” some old aged connoisseurs of art, sacrifice themselves to find stolen artworks. They also could have called it “Saving a Private Collection”. But this one isn’t that heroic and exciting. You would expect this to be a masterpiece with such a cast and such an original story about the 2nd World War. Ultimately, it isn’t a movie of the same valuable level as those pieces of art they tried to save.
George Clooney co-wrote this film, has directed it and also plays the lead role as Frank Stokes, an art expert at age who puts together a group of eight other art historians, architects and professors to go to distant Europe and find some lost art. It’s also a race against the clock since the Russians are also keen to get those artworks in their possession. For the Russians, it’s a kind of payment for the losses they suffered during the war, while “The Monuments Men” have the noble aim to deliver it back to the original owners. The other members of the group consists of the three American greybeards Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), the Englishman Donald Jeffries ( Hugh Bonneville ) who apparently has to make up for something, the Frenchman in exile Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) and James Granger (Matt Damon) and Sam Epstein (Dimitri Leonidas).
Again Clooney looks like the perfect son in law and behaves as usual as a charming Hollywoodstar. I‘m constantly amazed about the fact that no matter what Mr.Clooney does, his hair always looks immaculate and well groomed. It seemed as if there is still a renowned stylist on every corner in this recreated–to–rubble Germany who has the time to fix his hair again. For the rest, it seems like an “Ocean’s Eleven“ in uniform. Even the conversations with Damon look like a duplicate of “Ocean’s Eleven“ : such a jovial, toneless and dry informal conversation between two close friends. Same routine.
Matt Damon plays again the smiling charmer who tries to help himself using his pitifully poor French (To be honest, I couldn’t understand anything he said) on his way to Paris, where he will meet a woman called Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett). Claire is the curator of the Jeu de Paume, a former art museum that became a depot of stolen art. She could possibly point out the locations where the Nazis have hidden their loot. However, she is an old-fashioned young woman who stubbornly refuses to help him, out of fear that it would disappear in the hands of the U.S. The fact that this frigid aunt suddenly felt her hormones working and encouraged Damon to clean up the produced cobwebs during the war, after she was so kind to ask if he was a “good husband”, I found a useless and meaningless filler which had nothing to do with the rest of the story.
The most enjoyable performances were done by the comic trio of the whole gang: Murray, Goodman and Balaban. Although their efforts unfortunately couldn’t save the movie. Murray walked around again as if he could care less. The famous dry humor was briefly interrupted by one of the most moving moments: playing a vinyl record he received with a Christmas message of his daughter and grandchildren. An intimate moment between all the misery of war. Goodman was again the lame softy you expect anytime to emit a thunderous roar of laughter, but also has its sad moment when he and Clermont ends up in a crossfire between the two armed forces. Balaban is an irascible rascal who has one great desire when they arrive in Europe : the opportunity to kill somebody over there.
Don’t expect action packed war scenes because the art rescuers follow the advancing forces during the whole movie and arrive in every historically known location after the Germans and allied forces have left. There are countless films about the horrors of the 2nd World War, but this story was still unknown to me. That made it more interesting to watch. The fact that there are two Belgian cities in the movie where valuable works of art were stolen , is also something that aroused my curiosity. The sometimes amusing dialogues and funny moments are interspersed with touching moments and a few moralizing and corny moments . But overall it was just a weak movie. In content it’s not really an epic story : a group of elderly men running back and forth through Germany looking for paintings and sculptures . That they made a 2 hour movie about that, is in itself an achievement .
My rating 4/10
Links : IMDB