There have been many unusual stories arising from World War 2; some heartbreaking and others inspiring. No two have been alike. The Monuments Men examines an interesting side to the war. Charting a team of treasure/art hunters, it explores how works of art have become important symbols to many. Whilst people are always far more precious than material things, George Clooney’s latest directorial effort has much humanity amidst the characters’ often perilous search.
Soldier Frank Stokes (George Clooney) is given an important task. Ordered to gather a group of art historians, his mission is to return artworks stolen by the Nazis. Going behind enemy lines during the last days of the war, Frank’s team has to rescue artifacts before Nazi soldiers destroy them. Assisted by artists James (Matt Damon) and Richard (Bill Murray) amongst others, ensuring his strange military platoon makes it out alive becomes paramount to Frank’s increasingly arduous assignment.
Based on true events, The Monuments Men should be more compelling. That it is not is due to Clooney’s approach. Portraying events in a very broad sentimental manner, he fails to truly embrace his characters. Although each has their own moment to shine, the episodic nature of their scenes stalls momentum. The overlong run-time doesn’t help with the whiff of American flag-waving patriotism grating. Clooney has done better with his previous directorial works being more memorable.
He assembles a good cast doing their best with meagre material. Murray comes off best as someone overwhelmed by the human tragedy he witnesses. His more serious sequences are awkwardly mingled with quirky humour which never works. The Monuments Men would have been better as a straight drama which would have made the tale more absorbing. When focusing on facts it works, with the race to find treasures providing an interesting history lesson.
The Monuments Men follows a long string of fine Clooney-directed films. Sadly it pales in comparison with a predictable and meandering script. It has its moments, proving historical events are often more fascinating than fictional ones.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 6