Movie Review: The Monuments Men

The major selling points of The Monuments Men might seem like box-office gold: a World War II plot, a star-studded cast, and America’s Sweetheart himself, George Clooney. But, alas, The Monuments Men falls short of masterpiece status.

This highly-anticipated film, which Clooney directed and stars in, tells the true story of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Program, a group of Allied soldiers who were charged with recovering and protecting culturally and historically significant art from destruction by the Nazis during the Second World War.  It helps to think of the film as a spinoff of Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds titled “Inglorious Nice Men Who Like Art.” But unlike “the Basterds,” the Monuments Men is a troupe that possesses little dynamism, bloodlust, or intrigue.  The-Monuments-Men-UK-Quad-Poster

This unlikely group of heroes – composed of eclectic, artistic personalities from around the world such as an architect from Chicago, a French artist, a sculptor, an Upper-West Side art dealer and the Curator for Medieval Art at the Met – seemed little more than a gathering of award-winning actors doing George Clooney a favor.  The minimal character development made it impossible to see the Monuments Men as anything other than Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, and Matt Damon, among others.

The apparent lack of motivation on behalf the actors came as a total shock, especially from such veteran actors as Murray and Goodman, whom I consistently have found astute and scene-stealing.

The film’s aimless plot follows individuals or groups of characters, who split up in hopes that this will allow them to cover more ground and recover more stolen art in a shorter period of time.  This sense of urgency was obviously felt not only by the Monuments Men, but also by the screenwriters, as each scene was incredibly brief – so brief in fact that little could be done to advance the plot or intrigue the viewers.  These two-minute scenes went by so quickly, frequently changing location from Paris to Germany or from a bar in New York to the battlefields in France, that the film appeared to be one elongated trailer that offered a pretty glimpses of the European countryside and Jean Dujardin in a military uniform – but, again, no deep development.

The script was, in my opinion, the film’s fatal flaw.  Occasionally, when the plot drags in a film, I can find solace in a well-crafted script or some bit of wise, witty dialogue; but that was not the case for The Monuments Men.  The script was a tableau of not-so-witty one-liners and lengthy Clooney sermons.  Some of the attempts at comedy were so cringe-worthy that upon hearing them my reflex was to slink away into my turtleneck sweater forever.  What astounded me also about the script was how each time the Monuments Men discovered a piece of historically significant and aesthetically profound artwork they had little to say about it besides “wow” or some profane exclamation of wonder.  I still don’t understand how a curator for one of the world’s most renown museums would have nothing to say upon discovering a Michelangelo than “Holy $#*%!”

The Monuments Men reminded me of the old proverb “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In truth this film had great, even noble, intentions.  The goal was to tell the untold story of the men who risked their lives to protect some of humanities greatest achievements – or perhaps, humanity itself.  I looked forward to seeing a WWII film that highlighted a previously untouched area of the war that commended new heroes and told me a new story.  However, with such a vague script and flimsy plot, I left the theater with just as much understanding of the men who saved western civilization as I had while standing in the ticket line.

— Melanie Bow, Staff Writer

Posted by on February 24, 2014. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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