The Monuments Men (2014) – Review

2 Stars

George Clooney’s continued fascination with the golden era of cinema and the birth of Americana culture is further explored in his latest directing assignment, The Monuments Men. This, his fifth film behind the camera, is a mixed bag of good scenes tied together in the loosest possible manner. While better than his last two pictures, The Monuments Men isn’t able to reach the creative style or emotional intensity of his debut feature, Good Night, and Good Luck. Packed with a talented cast of thespian Expendables, the story struggles to incorporate each character with enough obstacles to sustain interest, using their literal face value for stereotypical recognition is appreciated otherwise these soldiers would be indistinguishable.

Hitler is tearing through Europe and stealing famous pieces of art to fill the halls of a vast museum he is constructing in Germany. American Professor Frank Stokes (Clooney), has convinced the President’s council that losing such precious pieces of artwork would be an incalculable detriment to our culture and modern society at large. Given the go ahead on his mission, Stokes recruits seven men to help him on his unusual task. The squadron is made up of Bill Murray, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bob Balaban, they are given the moniker of The Monuments Men and are mostly met with either indifference or outright hostility from various Commanding Officers.

The movie’s plot is set up so that the central characters are together from only a few scenes, typically they meet up, Clooney dispenses orders and they all go separate ways. This sequence repeats its self at least three times over the course of the storyline. Yet, there are a number of individual scenes that are shot, acted and staged very well. Murray’s disarmament of a German solider by sitting down and having a smoke is a kick, a child sniper is a new twist to a familiar clichéd scene, and the juxtaposition of a battlefield surgery with ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ on the soundtrack is haunting.

The Monument’s Men will be easy viewing for TBS audiences on a cold weekend afternoon, on the silver screen its weakness are glaring. Clooney has picked a great concept for a film, but this can’t be the movie he envisioned when he set out with the right to Robert M. Edsel’s book. I have the feeling there is a longer, not necessarily better, version that was trimmed to make a two-hour running time allotment. Plays like an Ocean’s movie at times, at least it’s not as bad as part two of that series.

Director: George Clooney
Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman

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