The Monuments Men
- James Mottram
- 11 February 2014
George Clooney's WWII art heist movie is a monument to bad filmmaking
'Ocean’s Eleven does The Dirty Dozen' sounds like a fun movie, right? And this George Clooney-directed WWII comedy-drama tries, all too hard, to deliver on that very idea. But even low expectations won’t help you here, with a story that’s neither amusing nor dramatic.
Based on real-life events, a band of ageing art experts bomb into Europe to protect valuable works before the Nazis get their hands on them. Clooney plays Frank Stokes (a fictionalised take on Harvard art conservationist George Stout), charged with the task of assembling the Monuments Men and leading them into occupied Europe.
Joining the gang is an architect (Bill Murray), a sculptor (John Goodman), an art expert (Matt Damon), an art dealer (Jean Dujardin) and an art historian (Bob Balaban). With Britain’s Hugh Bonneville also on board, the group land in Normandy in 1944, only to discover that the Nazis have hoarded much Jewish-owned art, with only Cate Blanchett’s prim Parisian able to guide them towards finding Hitler’s stash.
Part of the problem is that the story separates off many of the characters in the early scenes in Europe, which leads to any sense of camaraderie dwindling rapidly. Jokes also get reused to diminishing returns (see Murray’s goading of Balaban, calling him 'Private') while other scenes lack the explosive impact you might expect (quite literally when Damon stands on a landmine).
Yet what really is a concern is how The Monuments Men fails to operate as a thriller. The ticking clock sees the Americans and Russians both chasing the stolen art, but there is so little tension here. Unaided by Clooney’s earnestly sentimental voiceover, and that Clark Gable moustache of his, it wants to be a movie from Hollywood’s golden age. But in the end it’s just a monument to bad filmmaking.
General release from Fri 14 Feb.