Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Monuments Men: Movie Review

Telling an historical story comedically and missing a level of entertainment.

“The Monuments Men” is a group of men (in real life around 350, and in this film 7) who are tasked with saving the historically and culturally significant monuments, fine arts and archives during World War II. They have to find and return that which the French hid and the Germans were finding and stealing and then hiding. And the film decided to tell this story comically. An odd choice which would have worked if the movie was entertaining. 2014

Directed by: George Clooney

Screenplay by: George Clooney and Grant Heslov

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bill Murray

The film took a really long time to get going as they wanted it to be about the men that took on this task; to pay tribute to unsung heroes of the past. But they changed their names and I also couldn’t tell you a single characteristic of any of them. The men were paired off so they each had their own region to investigate, but none of that was interesting. The worst part was giving James Granger (Matt Damon) and Claire Simon (Cate Blanchett, representing the real-life heroine Rose Valland) a love story. It seemed so Hollywood in nature and added nothing to the movie or the story; uninteresting romance with zero chemistry. They did have a reason for such nonsense, but just sticking with what actually happened would have been better.

Director, screenwriter, producer and star George Clooney has said the film is about 80% accurate, and that seems fair enough. But the problem isn’t the historical inaccuracy; the problem is that the cheap humour diminishes the very people and story they’re trying to empower. They spent too much time on lame comedy and not enough time getting the audience invested in the story, which was interesting but not the way it was told here. The humour was just a handful of lines wanting to kill Hitler and standing on a landmine. It's not very funny and it didn’t make the film entertaining. The story could have done that but it didn’t become interesting until they started discovering where the Germans hid the art. Coincidentally, the same point when the film started following the real story.

“The Monuments Men” very clearly wanted to help remember an important part of history and spark a debate about the cost of war on soldiers, civilians, and history and society. The debate is raging on, but the film missed a level of entertainment by not trusting its audience to be interested in exactly what happened and cheapening what did happen by adding humour which really didn't work.

Similar Titles:

The Imitation Game (2014) - Codes, war and homosexuality in an interesting balancing act.

Woman in Gold (2015) - Succeeds in telling a story that's interesting.

Lincoln (2012) - Reducing the impact by drawing out history with false sentimentality.

Lone Survivor (2013) - Hilarious dialogue and ridiculous war scenes make an odd mix.