As a fan of history, I am always a sucker for films based on real events and true stories, so Monuments Men would be right up my alley. So I thought, anyway. Although it is based on ‘real events’ there seems to be some dispute on just how accurate the film really is. Even if liberties were taken you still need to make an interesting film. Somehow, they missed the boat on both counts.
Started in 1943 (and dissolved in 1946, after the war was over) the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program was responsible for tracking down and recovering all of the artwork that the Nazi’s had stolen during World War 2. George Clooney and Grant Heslov have written and produced a film that is apparently loose with almost all of the details and have even changed the names of all the real Monuments Men for this film. Based on Robert M. Edsel’s book of the same name, the film is the story of 7 men who are assembled for this task. Led by Frank Stokes (George Clooney), in the film, the team is all American with one British and one French soldier rounding out the team. None have seen actual combat and have spent most of the war in administrative positions within the military. So when they assemble for their mission, the only action they have seen has been in Basic Training.
I am a fan of history, as I said, but certainly not an expert, but as films go Clooney’s film is a lightweight homage to the ‘Let’s Go, America’ films made in the 40’s. It can be an homage but at least make it interesting. The cast is terrific with Clooney , Matt Damon, John Goodman Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett. I mean, with a cast like this how could a film be so lifeless and dull? The script by Clooney and Heslov seems to have any tension drained out it and the action is stale and uninvolving. I felt like I was watching a TV movie of the week. The look of the film is excellent, however with the production values, sets and costumes looking top notch and I particularly enjoyed Alexandre Desplat’s patriotic sounding score.
Monuments Men is not an awful film, it just plays it too safe and ends up being pat and predictable. Every scene feels staged and choreographed with no room for spontaneity or zest. We know that all films are staged and storyboarded but at least, let the viewers get some sense of vibrancy or fun from scene to scene. There seems to be no room for error for Monuments Men, and Cate Blanchett’s character is largely wasted. Her only real purpose is to be a love interest to Matt Damon, whose character is married, if I am not mistaken. How can you have such a beautiful and talented actress like Cate Blanchett and relegate her to such a wasted role? As for the rest of the cast, you can almost pick out which characters are not going to make it and which characters are as safe as a baby in mother’s womb. I just never got the sense that any of the characters were ever in any real danger. I mean, they are going up against the Nazi’s, right? The acting is sufficient, sells the premise but no one is taking home any Oscars, here.
As for the film’s accuracy. Clooney maintains that ‘80% of what happens on screen, actually happened’ whereas, certain historians beg to differ. I will leave that to smarter and better educated men than myself. As a film, Monuments Men has heart, means well and I really wanted to like this film, it but ends up being a flaccid mess. Somewhere, in this material, is a good film to be made. Monuments Men is not that film.
Monuments Men-** out of 4