Published on March 3, 2014 | by Ben Grazebrook

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The Monuments Men

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Monuments Men poster

The Monuments Men has a star-studded cast, but fails to capture the audience’s attention. [Bethe Dabbs]

The Monuments Men is the story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, as a haphazard group of art experts is assembled to retrieve art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War . The premise is promising, as is the star studded cast, and yet the film fails to ever really kick itself out of second gear.

One of the big issues the film and indeed its director (George Clooney) has is they are unsure of what type of movie they want to be. As a result, The Monuments Men is stuck in a weird limbo where it’s unable to settle on a tone.

At times the movie is a rousing patriotic World War II film, while at other times it is a slow, sentimental history of art film. The lack of tone throughout means that at no point does the film fully capture the audience’s attention.

Odd mixture

Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov are not afraid to lay out the film’s premise – if you fight people they will fight back. Destroy their culture and you erase them from history.

Clooney, as is the case with his previous directorial outings, is keen to focus on the humanist side of the story. As a result, the film is an odd mixture of intense violence followed by periods of calm, such as when the protagonists lay down their weapons to study one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.

This leaves the viewer and indeed the characters having to ask, “With this many people dying, who cares about art?”

One of the major issues with the film is how it treats its viewer. Clooney and Heslov seemingly have no faith in their audience and as a result the film moves at a snail’s pace as every detail is thoroughly explained. There are times when the film will be gaining momentum only for the brakes to be slammed on, as we are told of the importance of the art piece and its significance to civilisation.

On the whole, the acting is very solid and all the big stars deliver good performances. Bill Murray and Bob Balaban enjoy some good back and forth moments, as do Clooney and Matt Damon. Cate Blanchett however appears fairly flaky, and delivers an even flakier accent, while Jean Dujardin may have less memorable lines here than when in The Artist, he still delivers a solid performance with his twinkling smile as present as ever.

The film is not a disaster and there are enjoyable moments, but what makes it such an infuriating watch is that all the tools are there to create something phenomenal. Clooney is a good director, sometimes a great one, but he falls flat on his face here when attempting to make an epic war movie.

 

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