Friday, March 7, 2014

The Monuments Men Review

The Monuments Men Review
George Clooney has directed five films already, and much like any directorial artist, he's already had some highs and lows. I will say, based on my humble opinion, that Clooney has had more highs than lows so far in his directorial career. I love "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," easily Clooney's best film as director. I think "Good Night and Good Luck" is quite charming and stylish and I thought "The Ides of March" was absolutely captivating. I thought he fumbled a little bit with "Leatherheads," (pun totally intended), but its not something that puts somebody in the cinematic doghouse. By and large, George Clooney is a multi-talented and he's proven it so far.

I was expecting quite a bit from "The Monuments Men" and perhaps I set my expectations too high. It wasn't very hard to do. I am a hardcore history buff, so when I heard Clooney was directing a movie about a true story during World War II, I was hooked. When I heard he hired a cast that included Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean DuJardin, Bob Balaban and Clooney himself, I was rabid. It was really quite easy to set your expectations too high. I don't think "The Monuments Men" compares to the rest of Clooney's filmography at all. Sadly, I left the theater wanting so much more than I got, so much more.

I didn't hate the film, far from it. There is plenty of good stuff about "The Monuments Men" to discuss, so let's focus on that first. Like I said already, the cast is stellar and nothing could stop them all from being charming. There are several moments where each actor shines in a given moment. Consider a scene where Bill Murray's character and Bob Balaban's character come across a Nazi and have a somewhat comedic stand-off. Consider a scene where John Goodman and Jean DuJardin are pinned by a sniper and they argue over who distracts the sniper with cover-fire while the other takes the kill. There are plenty of humorous and fun moments and the cast relishes every bit of it. The music by Alexandre Desplat is adventurous and heroic, exactly the type of music that fits the bill for this film's story. You will be able to tell that Clooney had a keen eye for detail, because we really feel the world he creates and it all feels authentic.

But besides some good performances and lots of great fluff, I am not convinced "The Monuments Men" is much of a movie at all. The entire film feels like a giant montage from a different movie, and the entire enterprise is pretty straightforward. Clooney's character argues the significance of recovering art being destroyed by Nazi's, the United States government sanctions a mission to recover the art, Clooney assembles a team, they go to Europe, they save a bunch of art, case closed. Look, I don't mind movies that are simple and to-the-point, but Clooney decided to deplete the entire movie of emotions. When a member of the team is killed, there is no emotion because we were never really invested in him. What was sad about that scene is that Clooney fought hard for that scene to be emotional, but it just wasn't at all.

Another bizarre creative choice is the film is very episodic, in an excess kind of way. To me, the movie felt like a television serial crammed into an near two hour running time. The team goes a European location, they try and find art held by the Nazi's in that area, and they either recover it or not. No matter what, once they are at one location, they simply move onto the next location. Each town or village the team visits feels a different story altogether, and the whole time I was wondering why Clooney didn't just make a mini-series, it might have worked out better for him.

No matter what though, I want to make this sparkling clear, "The Monuments Men" is NOT a bad movie. It is absolutely worth seeing. If you like actors at the top of their game, check it out. If you like a fun historical exercise, its worth a look, although I am not quite sure how accurate the film is just yet. I think some of you will be surprised how rushed and jumbled most of the film is and I think some of you will leave wanting more. "The Monuments Men" is not a bad movie, but Clooney is certainly capable of better.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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