The Monuments Men Director: George Clooney
Writers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett Columbia Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 118 Minutes
Release Date: February 7, 2014
Co-written and directed by George Clooney, and based on the book of the same name by Robert M. Edsel, The Monuments Men is a World War II drama about an Allied platoon of over-the-hill museum directors, artists, architects, curators, and historians who are tasked with an unusual mission.
The platoon, which consists of Clooney, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin (The Artist), and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), must enter Germany during the closing stages of the War and rescue the world’s artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their rightful owners.
The final member of the platoon, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Matt Damon), is sent to France to gain valuable intel about the location of the stolen art from Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), a French art historian and undercover member of the French Resistance. The scholars-turned-soldiers, known as the Monuments Men by military brass, find themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of one thousand years of culture and protect mankind’s greatest artistic achievements.
As a filmmaker, George Clooney went from up-and-coming auteur – with films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck – to competent-but-generic really quick. The downfall began with 2008’s underwhelming screwball comedy, Leatherheads, and continued with the entertaining-but-empty 2011 film The Ides of March. The Monuments Men isn’t a disaster by any stretch of the imagination – it just lacks personality.
Stylistically, The Monuments Men feels like a studio picture from the ’40s: charming and whimsical, with a straightforward story propelled by an ensemble of Hollywood stars. Clearly this was Clooney’s intent – to make an old-fashioned period film with a hand-picked ensemble of brilliant actors – but devoid of artistic voice. In a film that stresses the importance of our artistic achievements, Clooney seems hesitant to put his own stamp on the story.
Still, a great cast is enough to make The Monuments Men worth watching – it’s always a pleasure to see Bill Murray on screen, and surrounded by comedic talents like Goodman and Balaban leads to some humorous moments. The incredible Cate Blanchett turns in fantastic work as always, even if the material isn’t that challenging. All in all, Clooney’s latest directorial effort is a slight but entertaining film for those looking for a more lighthearted alternative to the somber, heavy-hitting dramas of awards season.