Truth is better than fiction for ‘The Monuments Men’
Interesting subject matter? Check. Proven box office draws? Check. Supporting cast filled with talented, recognizable actors? Check.
On the surface it seems that “The Monuments Men” has everything one could possibly need to be a commercial and critical success. But when it comes right down to it, the three things I mentioned above are about the only thing the film has going for it.
Set in the midst of World War II, “The Monuments Men” follows a rag-tag group of art appreciators, led by Lt. Frank Stokes (George Clooney, who also directed and co-wrote the film), as they make their way across Europe in search of art stolen by the Nazis for Adolf Hitler’s proposed Führer Museum.
The group, which also includes Lt. James Granger (Matt Damon), Sgt. Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Sgt. Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Lt. Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Maj. Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) and Pvt. Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), is given the task of finding, recovering and returning the artwork that the Nazis pillaged from throughout the continent.
On top of that, they are also in a race against time as the Russians are looking to collect the same treasures as reparations for the money the country lost as a result of the war.
Along the way the unit battles politicians who question the merits of saving art; military leaders who won’t put their men in harm’s way to help save it; and French museum curator Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett) who believes the Allied squad is only out to seize the art for their own selfish gains.
But the biggest obstacle the group encounters is one that it cannot overcome … a boring, disjointed story that fails in its attempts at humor and drama at virtually every turn.
In the moments where you feel there should be some laughs, there are none. In moments that seem to call for a more serious tone, there’s an attempt at humor.
Also missing is any sense of camaraderie between the cast – the lone exception being the pairing of Murray and Balaban, who provide the only moments that seem genuine throughout the entire film.
“The Monuments Men” was set to come out last December, but was reportedly pushed back because of post-production issues – namely balancing the “humor” in the film with the more serious tone of the story. Apparently, it should’ve been pushed back even further so more work could be done.
In reality, “The Monuments Men” is based on real events – men and women from Allied forces actually did this kind of work during and after WWII and recovered millions of pieces of art and other heirlooms that the Nazis hid in mines and private homes throughout Germany and surrounding areas.
It’s a spectacular story that deserved to be told/shown to the masses … it’s just too bad it fell so flat.
★ of ★★★★★