George Clooney stars as Frank Stokes – a historian concerned
World War II is taking a toll on some of the greatest accomplishments
of civilization. Fearing Hitler’s army is capturing all of
the greatest art known to mankind as they raid European countries and
steal it from private citizens, churches and museums, he proposes the
US form a special unit, The Monuments Men, comprised of experts in art,
architecture and more to go to Europe and find the purloined
Rembrandts, Picassos, Michelangelos and more before it is too late.
As the Allied forces start to defeat Germany and send them into
retreat, the Nazis have been trying to bring all of these artifacts
back to their home country, and destroying what they cannot carry or
make off with. The time to act is now.
Of course, while the work is noble, they encounter many who are more
worried about the lives of the men and women fighting on the
battlefields and living in the cities under Nazi control, and the one
woman who might be able to help them find everything, Claire Simone
(Cate Blanchett), isn’t so sure she can trust the Monuments
Men, and they might have to wonder if they can trust her.
Men is a movie with strange tone
issues and a challenge to make the audience care. On the surface, the
idea of the movie screams serious and emotional as we see these men who
have dedicated themselves to art doing what they can when what they
love is in more peril than it ever has been in the history of mankind.
Make no mistake about it, the consequences of failure are massive.
Yet, The Monuments Men,
most of the time, plays like a romp. You feel like you are watching
these guys on some sort of road trip complete with the wacky Basic
Training scenes and some wisecracks thrown in to keep the audience
guffawing. Some of it is welcome, but Clooney, as director, kind of
misses the turn when The Monuments Men should be merging from
dramedy lane into the off ramp toward serious. Throughout the movie,
the characters are trying to convince the world what they are doing is
important and serious, and the movie should be trying to do the same
thing instead of joking around so much.
Plus, the audience, much like the people in the film, need to be
convinced why this is such a vital and crucial exercise. In a world
where we don’t worry about losing paintings or musical
recordings or movies because they all exist digitally on a computer
someplace, the compelling argument of why needs to be made.
Clooney gets a moment to make the big speech to win over the audience
and rally us behind the cause, but the script only kind of delivers.
It’s a double instead of a home run as Clooney, as one of the
co-writers, and co-writer Grant Heslov act as if the importance of this
mission is self-evident, which it might be to people in creative
fields, but not to hourly wage workers who have more of a natural and
justifiable concern for the young men and women who would be losing
their lives in war. Survival of the body seems much more vital than
survival of art.
In a movie full of some of the best and most beloved actors in films,
Cate Blanchett knocks it out of the park. She wonderfully displays that
very unique, steely European aloofness developed as a protection
measure that we used to see from people of that generation. Yet, she
also allows Claire to have some vulnerability as she finds one ray of
hope to believe in.
The rest of the cast makes The
Monuments Men watchable due to
their easygoing charm, which overcomes some shortcomings. Every one of
them is so good, respected and beloved, we are willing to forgive.
Monuments Men is rated PG-13 for some images of war violence and