Thursday, February 13, 2014
THE MONUMENTS MEN
If you are a World War II buff, you are probably aware of the "Monuments Men", a special group formed during the conflict to retrieve and protect the various art treasures looted by Nazi Germany. There's been a best-selling book written about them (which I have not read), and a number of magazine articles.
Now comes George Clooney's cinematic take on the group. This is a personal project for him--he's the star, the director, and the co-producer and co-writer. Clooney has assembled an impressive cast list: Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin (Best Actor Oscar winner for THE ARTIST), Bob Balaban, and Cate Blanchett.
THE MONUMENTS MEN does not really have a straight narrative--it's more of a series of small vignettes as the group travels around war-torn Europe in search of priceless relics. A lot of these scenes contain a fair amount of typical war movie tropes, and Clooney injects a lot of light humor in the story. The movie goes along at a pretty quick pace--so much so that we really don't get to know all that much about the individual men or their backgrounds (we assume that all the members of the group are experts of some kind, but they never really get much of a chance to show their expertise).
The only real female character in the film is Cate Blanchett's mysterious French museum curator. Blanchett has the most interesting role, and she spends almost all of it wearing glasses, and with her hair pulled back. This leads to a scene where--you guessed it--she gets dolled up, takes her glasses off, and lets her hair down (I have to admit I groaned when I saw her do this--nothing against Cate Blanchett all dolled up, but that's one of the most obvious movie moments).
THE MONUMENTS MEN is not a slam-bang battlefield epic, or a gut-wrenching realistic war drama. It's a different kind of WWII film (even though it has some of the cliches of the genre), in that the heroes are trying to find stolen art. Clooney does do a good job in explaining why this group, and what they did, was important. Some may think that this movie is not dramatic enough. I wouldn't say that it is a great film, but I do have to give George Clooney credit for making a production about this subject, and also for making a movie that adults can take older children to see (there's no excessive violence or language in the picture). Overall, it's a decent, honest effort....but I have a feeling that a documentary about the real Monuments Men would be a lot more fascinating.