Synopsis: An unlikely World War II platoon are tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners.
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The Monuments Men is filled with an A-List cast and directed by an A-List name (Clooney). The film is based on a true story that shows a side of the second World War that many may not be familiar with. Towards the end of World War II, Hitler had accumulated quite a collection of historical art. Historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) convinces Franklin D. Roosevelt to let him put together a group of like minded individuals to risk their lives saving pieces of art stolen by the Nazis. The underlying theme throughout this film questions their mission asking, “Is a man’s life worth a piece of history?” That question is what surrounds the film. As these men risked their lives in a war on the decline, many questioned their intentions and they had little support for their cause. Since most of the war was on the decline, many long-term soldiers were reluctant to assist in a task that put lives at risk. This left this group of historians, teachers, and architects to handle a majority of the mission on their own.
This film is different from many other World War II films. Much of the focus is on the aftermath of war and its impact on society rather than focusing on the usual violent gunfights we see in many other films. This causes the film to drag a little bit, especially for those who have expectations of seeing a “war” film. While there are many moments of interesting historical fact and stories that honor the men this film is based on, there is also a lot of long winded conversation surrounding the speculation of where the pieces of art may or may not be. These conversations take away from the story by unnecessarily prolonging it rather than adding any substance. The plot would have been better served by exploring the main characters along with their mission so that the audience could establish a deeper connection with them and have a better understanding of the passion for their cause.
The characters themselves were well played but not very well scripted. Reiterating my statement above, the film needed stronger character development because we learn very little about who these men are. Without any backstory, we have to rely on a series of moments shared by each of the characters. The most memorable film moments to me were the ones that had Bill Murray in the scene. His lighthearted humor was a refreshing break from the long-winded moments that seemed to drag during the film. It wasn’t just his humor, there was a particular moment of sincerity that gave a glimpse into his character’s story that no other character in the film had. The other main characters, George Clooney and Matt Damon, contribute their parts to the mission and nothing more. Clooney seems to be absent throughout the middle of the film yet it seems to be fitting as he is the one that starts and ends the mission. Matt Damon has one sole purpose, which is to question a french woman (Cate Blanchett) who may know about the locations of the stolen art. There was no bad acting throughout, just weaker characters who acted as mechanisms to the mission rather than actual people. For those interested in the historical story alone, this may have little impact towards your entertainment value of the film, but I left wanting to know more about the characters I was watching.
Overall I would say that I enjoyed this film despite its flaws. It had an interesting story that gave a different perspective on a war that many are familiar with. There were a variety of moments that stood out that held my interest and even made me laugh. Despite its unnecessary length, it honored men that many may not have known about while providing some rich historical value. It’s not a film that I would rush to the theater to see but it’s a film that I feel is definitely worth watching.
The Monuments Men – 7.0 out of 10
A long-winded film that provides adequate historical value…