Title: The Monuments Men
Director: George Clooney
Major Players: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray
Out Of Five? 2.5
One day I’ll learn not to expect too much of a film. But when it has a cast like the one for The Monuments Men, it’s difficult not to be sucked in, even though I know only too well that a good cast doesn’t necessarily mean a good film.
Set during World War II, The Monuments Men is based on the true story of a task force of art experts who were sent behind enemy lines in Europe to recover the hundreds of thousands of works of art stolen by the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners.
It’s a little known piece of history and one that Clooney, while promoting the movie in London, was keen to stress had made a difference to the modern world. One of the reasons behind making the film was to pay tribute to the Monuments Men – and, indeed, Women. Sadly, while it may be full of good intentions, the movie just doesn’t cut it as an homage on any fronts.
I really wanted to like The Monuments Men. But, while it has all the ingredients for a good movie, it’s also in need of a task force to come to its own rescue. The strong echoes from the outset of action adventure yarns like The Great Escape raise your expectations but, once the film gets going, there are precious few thrills to be found. The few that we see work perfectly well, but there are simply not enough of them. It doesn’t help that the team hardly ever works together: for most of the film, they are split up into pairs working all over Europe. While this may be faithful to the original story, the constant flitting between one storyline and another feels very disjointed. It’s only when they come together in the later stages of the film that it has any real sense of purpose or direction.
For a team of art experts, Clooney and his men display a remarkable lack of passion towards the priceless artworks they are rescuing. It falls to Claire (Cate Blanchett) to show any of that. Working for the Germans in Paris, she covertly keeps a detailed ledger listing all the paintings and sculptures passing through their hands in the hope that, one day, they’ll find their way home again. She also has a much better understanding of their significance to their owners. They are, she says, “people’s lives.”
Despite wanting to like The Monuments Men, my reaction to the film is a rather French shrug of the shoulders. What could have been a fascinating and exciting film has, somewhere along the line, been turned into an episodic and often flat piece of cinema. Monumental, I’m afraid, it isn’t.
The Monuments Men is on general release around the UK.