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I’m a sucker for WWII movies, so when I saw the trailer for THE MONUMENTS MEN, I was really excited to see it. Not only does it have a intriguing “based on a true story” premise, but it sports a great cast and is written and directed by George Clooney.
How could this movie be anything but great?
I’ll tell you how -- It has a dull and listless narrative that plays out with no real sense of danger or urgency and is far too episodic for its own good. The movie is truly a missed opportunity and unlike the precious art that these soldiers were sworn to protect, it will quickly fade from memory.
As the war in Germany is coming to an end, Frank Stokes (George Clooney) has real concerns that the artwork stolen by the Nazis will be lost forever or even worst, destroyed. Assembling a team of art curators and historians that are past their prime as combat soldiers, the team goes behind enemy lines to find and reclaim the stolen art to return it to their rightful owners.
The “Monuments Men” as they’re called by FDR consists of Americans, French, British and even a German-born who now hails from New Jersey. They are helped by Claire Simone (CateBlanchett) who has been secretly working for the French resistance while serving the Germans. She knows key information that could save some of histories greatest works of art but she’s not sure whether to trust the Americans, for fear that they want the art for themselves.
Other than the plotting of the movie, the tone is a real problem; the movie can’t decide if it’s a comedy or a drama with jokes that fall flat more often than hitting their marks. It soon becomes overly earnest with sappy music and even more sappy melodrama.
Even though it has such fantastic supporting players with Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Bob Balaban (to name a few), they’re never truly developed as actual people, so when we are meant to feel for them, it just falls on deaf ears. It’s as if you’re supposed to like these characters based on who portrays them as opposed to having earned their likeability.
THE MONUMENTS MEN will definitely be one of my biggest disappointments this year because it had so much promise. Don’t get me wrong it’s not unwatchable; it just should have been a piece of art worth hanging in a museum.