The Monuments Men: Review


The leading actors of the Monuments Men walking side by side.

Below contains a review of the film, “The Monuments Men.” Please DO NOT READ if you wish to abstain from plot information.

Directed by Clooney from a script he wrote with his regular filmmaking partner Grant Heslov, “The Monuments Men” is a throwback to a very specific type of World War II adventure picture: a star-studded adventure made between ten and twenty years after the war’s end.

The movie sends Clooney, Matt Damon, Bob Balaban, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin—playing art historians or art experts of one kind or another—in search of German-pilfered paintings and statuary. It adds something else as well: an appreciation of how hard it is to get people to care about art when cities have been reduced to rubble and whole populations wiped out.

Even if “The Monuments Men” never overcomes its unwieldy structure and unevenness of tone, the film still manages to make a profound, even subtle point: that Hitler’s darkest impulses and annihilating reach extended from human beings to history itself.

“The Monuments Men” challenges the idea that a distinguished cast can make any film entertaining. When George Clooney asks, “Who will make sure that the statue of David is still standing and the Mona Lisa is still smiling?” the audience is entranced by the idea that Clooney will overcome this challenge. By the end of the movie, the audience is thinking “Wake me up when you find that statue.” The film has their characters talk more than they act.

“The Monuments Men” should be more entertaining than it is with such a strong cast. The underlying problem in the movie is the script. The audience is confused on whether or not the film is purposed to be humorous or dramatic. The plot is underdeveloped and is in large part due to the script. Also, the characters in the movie are stale and one-dimensional at best. None of the characters are fleshed out. Although all of the actors are fun to watch, watching them at a press conference would be just as entertaining.

Unfortunately, it’s the most visually un-dynamic film George Clooney has ever directed, a succession of plain vanilla long-shots and close-ups that betray no sense of how to block actors within a moving frame.

“The Monuments Men” is not a terrible movie. It’s just not consistently good enough to get excited about. It’s the kind of film that you’ll stumble across on TV, watch for a few minutes thinking, “This is all right, I don’t know why everybody was so hard on it,” and then change the channel. Is the film worth seeing nonetheless? Probably. The cast is incredible. But The Monuments Men is a missed opportunity – staid, uninspired and overly virtuous.

Rating 6/10