The Monuments Men tells the extraordinary true tale of a group of artists and architects entered World War II with the sole mission of reclaiming valuable and historically important pieces of artwork. After the Germans had stolen millions of works of art from all over Europe and hidden them in Germany in order to display them in a museum dedicated to Adolf Hitler.
Directed by and starring George Clooney (Oceans 11, Up in the Air) as Frank Stokes, an american art conservationist is instructed to assemble a team in order to head to Europe to recover the stolen works. His team consists of John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, Red State), Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation), Bob Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom, Capote), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Burke & Hare), Jean Dujardin (the Artist, the Wolf of Wall Street) and Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, the Departed). With help from French art historian Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) they protect and reclaim valuable works and return them to their rightful owners before the Russians reclaim them for themselves and the Germans destroy them after Hitler issued his Nero Decree which stated upon his death or Germany’s fail, all works shall be destroyed. Two main pieces are the focus of the film which was the Ghent altarpiece and Michelangelo’s sculpture of Madonna and child which was the only work of his to leave Italy during his lifetime.
The plot of the film offers not much more than that simple linear hunt, with most of the team split into teams of two checking all over Europe for the most part until they snag on to where the Germans were stashing all of the work, however with most films such a simple plot line would be a fairly big drawback but the Monuments Men pulls it off due to the fact that it quite literally represents their struggle of this one task that they had on their sights on. A large part of what makes this film so enjoyable is the cast that is brought together, and with the characters so well matched up for their missions, for example Goodman and Dujardin (who had worked together on The Artist) and their issue with being completely unprepared to be pinned down by an axis gunman in a window. Also Murray and Balaban who both featured in Moonrise Kingdom work together in such a way where you get the feeling that their characters have a strong bond despite on the face they seem to easily irritate each other.
Although despite all of this, the film does have its flaws, most of which are to do with the tone of the film. For instance as far as war films go, Monuments Men looks quite tame with very few moments of conflict. There are also a handful of moments which with a slight bit of tweaking would be able to flood the cinema with tears from the audience but the moments don’t quite resonate to that emotional level within most people. Instead it just feels the audience feeling a bit glum instead of really making an emotional impact.
But if this film accomplishes anything at all, it displays as clear as day how important historical artifacts like art are to us. Although most people may not stock much interest in the subject, this film will make you appreciate the beauty and respect that these works deserve along anchored down by the fact that soldiers during World War II literally placed their lives on the line in order to protect these works of art in order to keep history alive and for future generations to enjoy.
- A stellar cast which doesn’t fail to reach its expectations
- An appropriate soundtrack
- Resonates well with the audience and makes you think
- Fair blend of comedy and drama
- Some scenes of little or no relevance
- Not the most accurate representation of war as you may expect