Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban
Directed by: George Clooney
Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 1 hr 58 min
To say The Monuments Men is uneven, is an understatement. Tonally, it’s all over the place. At times playing a lighter more comedic tone, while also trying to tell a serious story set during a dark time in our worlds history.
The story, based on true life events, takes some liberties with the historical facts. That’s to be expected, and a 2 hour movie isn’t going to cover every detail of this historic mission. The changes for dramatic theatrical effect however come at the expense of some real life heroes. So it’s a shame the makers of this film didn’t trust the audience with the real history of this effort. Because from what I’ve read, there was already plenty of drama to mine from the actual events as they happened. I’ve included a couple of resource links below if you care to read more.
The film however does properly communicate the importance of saving artistic treasures from the Nazi’s. But sadly, the characters tasked with that job are really underdeveloped.
The entire first act felt rushed to me. In just a few minutes we’re presented with our lead characters, and then told very little about them. Which is a shame, because I feel the movie was broken at this point. We’ve seen this kind of story played out at the theater plenty of times before. Someone is challenged with assembling a team to tackle a difficult task. So maybe writers Clooney and Heslov wanted to try to cover that initial set up differently. Skipping over the proper introductions however, causes problems later in the movie. With little to no time given to properly build chemistry between these characters. The dramatic moments later in the film feel muted. So when tragedy strikes and a member of the team is killed. The moment lacks impact because we hardly knew them. This is in spite of some great work done by the very talented cast.
The lack of a solid opening act guts the more dramatic moments in the story. Expect a solidly made, but light World War II drama. Excellent performances though, so if you’re a fan of the cast, this may be worth checking out. If you are a student of history, and know the real story behind the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, you might want to give this film a pass. It will likely just irritate you as you start to pick out the many liberties the film takes with the facts.
The film is well made, and the production design is good. I however didn’t see or hear a compelling reason to see this in the theater. If you can wait, a HD viewing at home will suffice.
The cast is really good in this, especially John Goodman. If the opening act spent more time developing character, and the film took fewer liberties with the truth, The Monuments Men could have been something really special.