Starring George Clooney, Cate Blanchette, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman, The Monuments Men is a true story of the heroic efforts of a small American and French platoon who collectively help hunt down the millions of art artifacts and masterpieces stolen by the Nazis during World War 2 .Their mission; return an estimated 5 millions pieces of art to their rightful owners..
Directed and written by George Clooney, we see at the start of the film the great war is coming to an end and Lt Frank Stokes (Clooney) has been given orders by the Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower the “monumental” task of retrieving the stolen treasures taken by the Nazis as an enduring symbol of Hitler grand ambitious of achieving a “1000 Year Reich”. Specifically, for Hitler the art was to be a showcased symbol in the “FuehrerMuseum” to the greatness of Germany. The only problem was during the height of Nazi conquering invasions no one actually knew where these stolen treasures were being secretively stored. Compounding this dilemma even more was the imperative task of finding these secret locations before Hitler death given that in his final days he had specifically decreed that they all be destroyed by the German Armies if Germany is defeated
The Monuments Men as a historical piece is fascinating through out from beginning to end. What is wrong with The Monuments Men is its writing, directing and more importantly its narrative focus. Sometimes it wants to be taken seriously as a weighty dramatic story and other times it comes across more as an inconsequential light hearted fantasy. From “Saving Private Ryan”, “Kelly’s Heroes”, “Life is Beautiful” and “Inglorious Basterds”, The Monuments Men seems to want to borrow way too many stylistics moods from too many previously successful war films which made the writing at times seem choppy and certain scenes out of character to the body of the story. At times I felt a bit guilty for laughing at something that only a few minutes ago was very serious and tragic.
Now, there were a few scenes that were very well done and pulled at your emotional heart string. One was involving Bill Murray who gets a surprising care package from home. Another involves a member of the team who struggled with alcohol who writes a letter to his father, And finally the best scenes were those involving Matt Damon and Cate Blanchette who once again was absolutely splendid as the French born Clerk If Meryl Streep did not exist we would be collectively anointing her (and rightfully so) the finest woman actress working to day. Through her acting discipline and delivery she seam’s to capture just right tone and mood of both the war period itself and her characters personal plight.
As a frequent visitor of The National Gallery of Arts in DC myself, I had high hopes for this film for very selfish reasons. And while I found The Monuments Men to be entertaining and I do recommend seeing in the theater (the cinematography was fabulous), in the end it’s not a great or memorable movie, to a historical event that richly deserved to be remembered memorably.