Friday, February 7
REVIEW: The Monuments Men
Directed by George Clooney
2014 War Drama
1 hour 58 minutes
From Columbia Pictures and
20th Century Fox
Well, gee, George, you know I like you, Bud. You act, you produce, you write, you direct... and for this film you did all of that. And I expect I'll never get to know how you, my intrepid friend, pull off four such weighty pieces of this highly-collaborative puzzle. Unfortunately, once in a while, a guy is just not gonna pull it off and this is one of those times. Worry not, I am still your bff, knowing, hey, none of us can hit a home run every single time.
Once said, this is not a bad movie... it's fine here and there but it just doesn't seem to come all together. It's rather like the ingredients to make a cake are out on the counter but it hasn't all come together yet. It's not a cake! I referred to it above as a war drama, but there really isn't much war, certainly not the shoot-'em-up kind of war. Ok, a little, but if you're going to see gunplay and tanks and bombs, you'll be sorely disappointed. Someone referred to it as an action drama. That, too, is overkill. It's based on a true story. It's that part of the sentence based on that allows us to take a few liberties, so let me step up and say we needed a little more action, a little more tension, a little more drama, a little more cohesion. This was as easy-going as an afternoon nap.
The plot concerns a group of middle-aged-to-older men who are recruited to go to various European locales during WWII and scoop up art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis. Many of the pieces are scheduled to go to the führer himself, but much will be destroyed. Time is of the essence.
The idea of gathering the men together for a project is something I light up about in other films... The Dirty Dozen, The Guns of Navarone and more recently in Inglourious Basterds and even in westerns such as The Magnificent Seven and The Professionals but it was all outlined and accomplished better in those films. Why these particular men? They were much older than the soldiers around them but the skill set they brought was being art historians not combat soldiers. Everything, it seems, they accomplished with ease. Did it really happen that way? Cinematically, it didn't work because it kept excitement and suspense at bay.
There were scenes that did work, and quite well, actually. Two of the men are killed and that was tense. There was a good scene with a couple of them sitting around a table with a family that wanted to remain secretive about the artwork on their shabby walls. Of course, any scenes with Cate Blanchett, a woman forced to work with the Nazis who are stealing the art, are the best in the film, acting-wise.
All of Blanchett's scenes, with respect to the title stars, were with Matt Damon. It was fun to see two of the stars of one of my favorite films, The Talented Mr. Ripley, back together again. The actress also worked with Clooney before in The Good German, but they had no scenes together in this one.
Of those title stars, I think I enjoyed Hugh Bonneville the most but truthfully this wasn't a movie to showcase great acting.
The same subject was more or less covered a great deal more compellingly in John Frankenheimer's 1964 The Train starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield and Jeanne Moreau.
Don't worry, George. I'll be first in line for your next one.