Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray
Genre: Drama/ Comedy/ War
As part of their invasion during World War II, the Nazi’s stole all valuable art collections (both public and private) whenever they could with Hitler’s ultimate intention for them to form the biggest private art collection in the world. Determined to stop this from happening, the American President commissions for a crack pot team of ageing art experts to enter enemy lines and steal back these invaluable pieces of art and return them to their owners in what seems to be a suicide mission. Now with Hitler losing the war and ordering for all the art to be destroyed, they now face a race against time to survive war torn Europe and preserve this invaluable collection of 1000 years of history and culture.
Oh that good old tradition of Hollywood complacency! Well, that seems to be definitely the case involved in George Clooney’s latest directorial effort. The source material is a great story that would seemingly make a great Hollywood film and Clooney has managed to assemble a very impressive and talented cast. Yet despite that Clooney and Grant Heslov’s script has produced a dull and often uninspiring film that is neither particularly funny nor dramatic. There is no denying the bravery of these real life characters, but yet the entire tone of the film just seems to be inconsistent and ill judged, doing a huge disservice to the actual story.
For the entire running time of 115 minutes The Monuments Men never truly engages with Clooney wanting to include everything and his motley crew split up and rejoin going from location to location so rapidly that the whole narrative is not just painfully episodic but also quite alienating.
Despite the cast and the premise there is very little comedy. The performances are adequate (though Clooney is cruising a little too much) but there is little chemistry and it is never given chance to develop. There are a few amusing moments with a fictional moment involving a landmine probably the standout, but yet these are way too few and far between. Likewise there is not enough drama or a real genuine sense of peril; we get rousing speeches from Clooney, the occasional shot to remind us of the tragedy of war such as the number of crosses being made in the background at one point or the slightly patronising juxtaposition of a Christmas carol being sung to the image of a soldier dying. These could be such powerful moments but yet just feel out of place or just forced.
The Monuments Men really had the potential to be a real boy’s adventure with camaraderie and characters we really care for, and even has a whistling theme tune courtesy of Alexander Desplat’s score, but yet never truly engages. It is not horrific by any means; it is well made and certainly offers an authentic visual feel of time and place. Despite the poor script the natural power of the story and the solid (but not spectacular) performances mean that characters are still without a doubt likeable and worth rooting for. It is however such a frustrating waste, especially as Clooney has proved in the past he has talent behind the camera as well as in front of it.
Often lacking real genuine drama or comedy and whimpering uncomfortably in the middle, The Monuments Men is a disappointing case of complacent Clooney with too much reliance on the great story and cast and very little effort made on actual story telling.