The Monuments Men Directed by George Clooney
Release Date – March 13th 2014.
George Clooney’s fifth turn in the director’s chair has delivered mixed reviews from film critics. It’s his fourth effort directing himself, and sadly it falls far short of where this movie, based on actual events, should have landed.
A fascinating truth is at the heart of the story – that, for the first time in history, an Army had been tasked with not just defeating an enemy in battle, but preserving and recovering items of cultural importance. In this case, close to five million artifacts plundered by the Nazis, in what became known as the greatest treasure hunt in history.
It’s admirable that Clooney undertook producing, co-writing, acting in and helming a film endeavoring to shine a light on this little known aspect of WW2.
Where the film suffers, is in its depiction of the conflict.
This is not a film about war in the same vein as countless others.
This film rather, is a tribute to the 400 or so men and women from 13 countries that formed “The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program” and the lengths they went to as they foiled Hitler’s plan to a) keep all the good stuff for himself, and b) destroy it all in the event of his defeat.
Clooney has recruited a stellar ensemble in Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett and the charming Bob Balaban.
He starts proceedings at a snappy pace, gathering up his Monuments Men and unveiling the back-story of the Nazi plot to loot Europe of the finest art known to Western Civilization.
Unfortunately once the gang land at Normandy, the plot strays little from a race against time to recover the loot before it’s either destroyed by the fleeing Germans, or claimed by the advancing Russians.
Much of the action feels unreal and fanciful creating a sense that the actual events are hard to believe. The end result is an unauthentic disappointment.
This is in fact a discredit to the marvelous work undertaken by the real Monuments Men (and Women!) and could not be regarded as any of the cast’s finer moments.
That said, Blanchett is a stand out, because amongst it all she feels like the one character you can trust. A French art historian whose only concern is the art not falling into anyone’s hands but remaining “free for all the world to see”.
2 and ½ stars.