The Monuments Men is the latest pet project by George Clooney, which sees him take up co-writing, directing, and starring roles in the World War II film, which is based on a true story with a liberal dose of creative license. In the film, Frank Stokes (Clooney) convinces President Roosevelt of the need to rescue some of Europe’s greatest art treasures from the clutches of Hitler and his greedy henchmen. Given the green-light, he assembles an eclectic team of mostly middle-aged museum officials, artists, architects and art restorers in a race against time (and the Russians) to rescue some of the most famous and priceless art pieces before Hitler gives the order to destroy them. To play the roles of “The Monuments Men”, Clooney has not surprisingly put together an impressive list of veteran Hollywood actors that include Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchette, Jean Dujardin, and Donwton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville. Each actor gives a commendable performance and brings something special their respected role, but I felt Cate Blanchette gave an uncharacteristically flat performance as Claire Simone, a director at the Louvre in Paris who may know there whereabouts of much of the stolen art.
Though it takes place during some of the most fierce fighting of the war, The Monuments Men isn’t a war film. For the most part, the harsh realities and brutality of the war are glossed over as The Monuments Men act more or less on their own, racing around some of the most beautiful spots in Europe searching for the art. There is a split storyline, with Matt Damon’s character James Granger pursuing Claire Simone as probably the best lead to locate most of the art passing through the Louvre, and this slows down the pace of the film. It does pick up towards the end, though, as The Monuments Men finally locate a stash of art just as the Russians are closing in and it’s a race to see if they can get out before the Russian army.
The talented veteran case delivers a lot of different scenes. There are some that are humorous, some that are tragic, some that are moving, but overall the film is not entirely cohesive. On a broad scale it all works together, but as the film progresses from scene to scene, and with the side story of Granger and Simone, it feels a little bit disjointed. But looking beyond that, as well as the creative licenses that Clooney took, it is a beautiful film with lots of period details, great acting, and a wonderful score. It is also an important story about how ordinary people put themselves in extraordinary situations to save some of the most beautiful and priceless pieces of art ever created by mankind. The Monuments Men is one more illustration of the dual power of man which on one hand creates some of the most incredible objects every known, and on the other hand heartlessly destroys them.
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::: Renowned For Sound Technical Director and Film Reviewer ::: Robert is an IT geek, movie fan and part-time movie reviewer/editor. Robert also looks after the ‘behind the scenes’ technical elements of Renowned For Sound.