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The Monuments Men: Film Review

By Aubrey D'Souza 21 February, 2014 3 min read
The Monuments Men: Film Review

Be prepared for a disappointment. Far from being interesting, this film, The Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, is a slow and dull film. Despite a superb cast comprising Matt Damon, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin and Bob Balaban and George Clooney himself, this movie fails to create magic. Most war movies are based on true stories, captivate the audience. You are left feeling a little lost and tired at the end of this experience. All in all, the movie attempts to make a statement on unsung heroes, yet the message is just garbled.

The Monuments Men is based on the true story of The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program. As the 2nd World War started to end, Germany faced imminent defeat. The Allies were closing in from the Italian Front. They were also rolling through the French countryside after the D-Day landings. The Russians had broken the back of the German Army and were hot on the path to Berlin. The Nazi military had confiscated all the art of the conquered nations. Once the Allies started to make head way, the tide of battle turned. This is where the Monuments Men came in. They were tasked with finding and securing art that was stolen during the course of the conflict. The notion is quite simple, saving a culture is not just about lives but also about the cumulative creations of that culture. Based on real stories and real people, the movie sets out to tell us the story of these ordinary men who saved some of the world’s greatest art. These men were too old for war. They are brought together because of their knowledge of art and artists. Their task is to save art and to tell which buildings that the soldiers can blow up as the battle rages on. The race begins, to hunt down these pieces before the Nazis destroy the evidence.


The story is a good one. The notion is that art is meant to survive. George Clooney attempts to make this story relevant in our day and age. As Frank Stokes, he is put in charge of this Monuments task force. He is assisted by James Granger, played by Matt Damon. They then recruit the rest of the rag-tag team. In the meanwhile, Cate Blanchett’s Claire Simone works to gather intelligence on the stolen art. The team comprises professors, a sculptor, an art critic, an architect and a painter. In order to save art and architecture, they have to get as close to the front as they possibly can. A bit dangerous for these older gentlemen.
John Goodman, Bill Murray and Bob Balaban, all shine in their parts. But the issue is that, their roles are just off to the side. The primary focus is on the characters of George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Matt Damon. There are references to the Holocaust, without actually mentioning it by name. As the film progresses, we get to see the horded collection of the Jewish people. You get the feeling that certain topics aren’t being touched upon. The pace of the film is slow. This isn’t a comic film, but the deft touches by Bill Murray and Bob Balaban will make you smile. Reminding you that humor has a place on the battlefield, even if it is for a split second. As a director, Clooney tries to tell us about the horrors  of war and the hope that art brings. In the end, the film goes through the motions, there isn’t any attachment created, nor is there any pathos. The material has great scope, but the film lets you down with it’s pacing and dull approach to such a lovely subject.

Why you should watch this film?
The subject of this film is art and the people who attempt to save it. Art defines humanity as it gives the future generations a chance to look at the past. The essence of art is to exist. The movie shows us some amazing art work and the magnitude of the sacrifice that was needed to save such pieces. Some of the depiction of the paintings and sculptures are sublime. If you enjoy art, then you will enjoy the references to various masters. The movie’s point that to save a generation, lives will be lost however the creations of those people shouldn’t  be.

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Written by
Aubrey D'Souza
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