The Monuments Men

The_Monuments_Men_posterReleased: 2014
Director: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett

Nowhere near as good as it should have been


Sometimes a film has all the right components to make a perfect viewing experience and it just doesn’t work. The cast can be top-notch, the story enthralling, the production values great but the film just doesn’t add up. And so it is with George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, The Monuments Men.

The concept is brilliant and one which really appeals to me. The Monuments Men is based on the true story of art experts who are recruited to the war effort to track down and recover art looted from private collections, museums and churches by the Nazis. I was truly intrigued by this story, I used to work in genocide awareness and remembrance and the concept that destroying a community isn’t just about killing members of that community, it’s also about destroying their cultural heritage is one which hits home quite strongly with me.

George Clooney plays the leader of the group and brains behind the operation who recruits experts including Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin. Against the wishes of military commanders on the ground, the Monuments Men travel through Europe attempting to find precious artwork before it is either destroyed by the Nazis or taken as reparations by the Soviet army. Cate Blanchett is the only female cast member – a French art expert who spied on the Germans but doesn’t trust the Americans to return artworks to their rightful owners.

The Monuments Men should have been brilliant. Three Oscar winning actors in the cast; most of the production team behind the fabulous Argo; fantastic production values and a fascinating true story should all have added up to an unbeatable film. Unfortunately it didn’t.

Unlike a number of other reviewers I didn’t hate The Monuments Men – there’s a lot that it does well. The performances are all good – Clooney was born to play a suave man in uniform and Matt Damon is always likeable. The film looks good with the German scenery particularly attractive and (despite the lack of historical accuracy) you know that this film has good intentions and its heart is definitely in the right place.

Where it goes wrong though is that we’re never sure if we’re watching an Oceans-11 style comedy caper or a serious drama. Some moments are very funny – but there’s not enough comedy to be a caper. Similarly, there are some touching moments but the drama falls flat. The Monuments Men just doesn’t fit into either category very well and feels a little disjointed because of that. By splitting the ensemble cast into different short stories it stops the audience becoming too attached to any particular characters. Some of sadder moments failed to pack the emotional punch required.

The Monuments Men isn’t a bad film despite some of the reviews you’ll read. It isn’t, however, a great one and with it pedigree it should have been.

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  1. I felt exactly the same way! I think I may have even used the word disjointed in my review. It didn’t seem like it ever figured out whether it was a comedy or drama. Loved the cast and the story behind the movie.

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