Thursday, February 6, 2014

"The Monuments Men," It's Art Imitating Art

By Darlene Donloe
It’s quite amazing that an enormously significant moment in American history went virtually unknown for decades.  The film, The Monuments Men, tells the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history. The film, written and directed by George Clooney, is an action drama focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from the Nazis and returning them to their rightful owners.

Huh?  What? Who knew?

It wasn’t an easy task by any means.  The art was trapped behind enemy lines.  The men, all art experts, would be in danger. In fact, some would even be killed trying to retrieve some priceless art. But, the seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all decided it was worth it to risk their lives in order to preserve a culture and avoiding the destruction of 1000 years of culture. 

On the talk-show circuit, Clooney has repeatedly said, ‘we fought the Nazis to preserve our culture.’

 (l-r) Matt Damon and George Clooney

The Monuments Men are all in a race against time. It was a task that was met with much urgency because the German army, under orders, would destroy everything as the Reich fell.

The movie feels like a different version of an Ocean’s Eleven film, complete with a meeting with the initial inductee and then the search for the remaining six.  There are moments of comedy mixed in with the revulsion of war, which is a bit bizarre.

There are some credible performances, most notably Cate Blanchett, who plays  Claire, a strong French resistance fighter embedded in the center of the Nazi’s operation. She actually helps The Monuments Men by forking over a journal with notes about everything the Nazis pilfered. When Matt Damon requests her help, she is reluctant to assist, fearing that he, like the Russians, will steal the art back for himself. Thus a tense but tender bond brews, once again showcasing Blanchett’s excellence.

It’s a fabulous story, however it felt a bit disjointed. It jumps around and doesn’t adequately develop any of the characters. In fact, I can’t even remember any of their names, except for Claire.  Usually an audience needs to know more about a character, including their names, if they are going to be invested in the film.  In the end, though, that really doesn’t matter. The story is strong enough on it’s own to make the story worth the price of admission.

The Monuments Men (Sony Pictures) is written and directed by George Clooney and stars Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman. Bill Murray, Bob Balaban,  Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin. 

Running Time: 110 minutes; MPAA Rating: PG-13.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh , no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), The Monuments Men gets an O (OK).

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