<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by George Clooney. Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Cate Blanchett, Dimitri Leonidas
With a stellar cast and a great director, The Monuments Men should have been a monumental film. Instead it seems unsure of its tone of voice and a bit drab in the drama department.
He’s the man
George Clooney has made some good films: Good Night, and Good Luck, The Ides of March, Leatherheads and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He always attracts big name, loveable stars to his projects and they’re always full of wit, intellect and insight. So it’s sad when you see a film by him go so very wrong. It’s not a horrible film but considering the subject material and setting it is a film that seems to be a bit lost and unsure what it’s saying.
Now what’s the plan?
Set at the end of World War II when the Allies are winning and the Germans are retreating, The Monuments Men are a group of artists, historians and curators charged with the task of seeking out art collections stolen by the Nazis before they are all destroyed by Hitler who would rather see them burn than let them be retaken.
Clooney’s Frank Stokes has come up with the idea and he assembles a team who believe that their lives are worth sacrificing to save ‘pieces of art’ from all over Europe because those artefacts are ‘achievements’ and part of the culture of a civilisation.
The painting of the fallen Madonna with the big boobies!
Sorry, but parts of this film inadvertently remind one of that hilarious Brit series Allo! Allo! I remember the German officers who want to steal a painting of a ‘fallen Madonna with big boobies’ and the attempts to retrieve it by the French café owner Rene and everyone else.
In any case, our group of ‘men’ split up to find various treasures hidden in mines and along the way, two of the men are killed, one of them in crossfire. But the rest just carry on still joking and hobbling along since the rest of the army doesn’t seem to care even though they are digging up bars of gold along with the priceless Picasso’s.
It’s a fake!
The Monuments Men is watchable due to the likeability of its actors: Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Cate Blanchett and Clooney are all charming and funny. But the film itself is dull and never quite packs an impact. None of the characters are fleshed out. You are just supposed to sympathise with them without knowing much about them. Even their camaraderie seems odd as we don’t know if they’ve known each other before and what history they share.
The Monuments Men is a bit of a let down especially since it’s based on real events as detailed in the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, by Robert M. Edsel.
The book was better… I hope
It seems Hollywood is only making movies ‘inspired’ from books nowadays, either because they’ve run out of original ideas or the studios would rather produce films that already have a fan base (like the Twilight films).
It’s hard not to like The Monuments Men just because of the actors but you also feel the actors have not really been given that much to do. If this is movies imitating art i.e. the book, then I do hope the saying ‘the book was better’ applies here.