This is a movie with some serious stones. Reminiscent of Tarrentino’s Inglorious Basterds, The Monuments Men tells the real–life tale of an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR to retrieve artistic masterpieces stolen by Hitler’s forces and return them to their rightful owners.
The mission seems doomed from the start, with the art trapped behind enemy lines and the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell.
They’re an unlikely bunch of adventurers: a sculptor (John Goodman), an architect (Bill Murray), a curator at the Metropolitan Museum (Matt Damon), an arts impresario (Bob Balaban), and a French art dealer (Jean Dujardin), all led by an art historian from Harvard’s Fogg Museum named Stokes (George Clooney).
How can this mismatched platoon, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the Reich possibly hope to succeed? The Monuments Men, as they become called, find themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, risking their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest
The Nazis begin to burn what they class as ‘degenerate’ modern art whilst seizing such classic works as the Ghent Altarpiece and Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, and thousands of other pieces. Hermann Göring takes his share, mostly stolen from Jewish collectors; and much of the rest is earmarked for Hitler’s projected museum in Linz, and gets deposited in mines and other hiding places.
Stokes rounds up his crew and takes them close to actual warfare. That’s when reality hits. This isn’t just a fun expedition; it’s a life of death mission that will answer the question of which is of more importance; a man’s life or priceless artwork.George Clooney’s latest directorial endeavour is thrilling, it is filled with patriotic sentiment, comradery and unexpected comic moments.
It has been panned by most critics. They have compared it to Tropic Thunder. Let’s get the record straight. Tropic Thunder is a ridiculously over the top comedy with a standard cast, and The Monuments Men is a gripping action movie with a stellar star cast. The only similarity is that both movies are about a bunch of guys fighting to survive. To imply anything further is just lazy journalism.
However the downfall of the movie is the sheer size of the operation Clooney has attempted to produce in cinematic form. Over 300 personnel were involved in the real life Monuments mission, which recovered some five million works. However in the movie this has been diluted down to a mere seven members. This is understandable as there would be no chance in hell of keeping track with than many characters. But it would have been nice to see more members of the team and then the movie focus on the main seven.
The end of the movie is cringe-worthy and only serves to unravel all of the hard work from the rest of the movie. Clooney has taken on a big old fashioned war epic, but as they say go big of go home.
By Ruth Walker