Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Monuments Men - Movie Review

Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban and Dimitri Leonidas.
Directed by George Clooney.


This is an odd movie. All the ingredients are there to make a classic, a WWII heist thriller, a race-against-time, Over the Hill Gang type yarn. It just felt like key developmental elements were missing.

The Monuments Men was a real group but it was much larger than what the movie portrays. I understand narrative purposes for narrowing it down to eight conglomerate characters, but somewhere in there, director and co-writer Clooney forgot to make most of them characters.  Sure, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin are good actors, but it's as though those men were told to just show up and "act" without anything to work with.

"George, what's my motivation?"
"Be more Bill Murray-ish."
"Thanks. Thanks for that note."

The opening scenes play like a "We're getting the band back together" montage like this is a sequel to something. Things like this made me wish someone besides Clooney had directed it, someone who could have stepped back and noticed these little problems.

The actual quest of the men is something we grow to care about.  Watching Nazis set fire to art brings the same visceral reaction of the books burning in The Name of the Rose, or the scrolls burning in Agora. Some much history lost.

The actors that come off best, mostly because they have something to work with, are Cate Blanchett as a French secretary working for the Nazis but really helping the underground resistance, and Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville as a recovering alcoholic who sees this mission as a redemptive chance to do something with his life. Kind of cool to see Lord Grantham hanging out with two of the Ocean's 11.

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