The Monuments Men is allegedly a true story (though I suspect rather embellished) of a mission by allied art lovers to save the wealth of public and private art from being captured by Nazi Germany and/or destroyed on Hitler’s death. The real life photos over the end-titles indicate that it certainly wasn’t all made up.
Though this premise is a little less than gripping (‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’ in terms of war stories comes to mind), it must have looked good on paper: George Clooney (both starring and directing), Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin (though without Uggie), John Goodman, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett (hot Oscars property for Blue Velvet)…. ALL IN THE SAME FILM. They’ll all sure look good on the side of a London bus – – and they do.
However, unfortunately this is not a good film. It’s not even a good war film.
The whole film feels like its been stitched together from 3 minute long vignettes, without any sort of arc of a story and nothing to stop the viewer getting restless. What IS Matt Damon actually doing in Paris for all that time, other than having a nice holiday?
Why does one of the lead characters lamely hide behind a wall while he (sorry, spoiler, it is a he) is being shot – is his acting so dodgy that he can’t be seen on camera? Why does George Clooney – so brilliant in The Descendants – lapse into this rolling eyed twitchy performance that typified his early roles? Why is Cate Blanchett given so little to do? And why is her boss such a terrible shot? So many questions, so little time.
The film does manage to muster something more solid in the last 15 minutes or so, but it is too little too late in my book.
The one redeeming feature of the whole film are some of the performances. Bill Murray shows just what a good character actor he is away from his comedy roles. The scene in the shower where he hears his message from home is genuinely touching. And as a massive fan of Spielberg’s Close Encounters, I have a particular soft spot for Bob (“I’m a mapmaker”) Balaban. Here he is one of the lesser known ’stars’, but he gives one of the best performances in the film.
And there is a jaunty score from Alexander Desplat (“The Kings Speech”) – seemingly omni-present at the moment in the scoring room. Interestingly, Desplat also acts in the film as “Emile”: I’m not sure who this was, but it will make me want to watch the film again when it comes on the box!
But – unless it’s too late to warn you – don’t get drawn in by the hype. If I were you, I would avoid this movie.
Fad Rating: Ff.