The Monuments Men

WRITTEN BY: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
DIRECTED BY: George Clooney
STARRING: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett
RATING: 3 stars

When George Clooney gathered a bunch of his mates together to make the Ocean's 11 trilogy, we got a good mix of comedy, drama and thrills. With The Monuments Men, Clooney has again gathered some talented friends to tell an intriguing World War Two true story, but the film is like a watered down version of Ocean's 11. It is not as funny, and even though it deals with a serious issue, it does not even feel like as much is at stake. The Monuments Men is good, but it is not an exceptional film.

Adapted from the book of the same name by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter, The Monuments Men introduces audiences to Frank Stokes (Clooney), an art historian who is begging the US president to send a team to Europe to salvage famous and historic artwork before the Nazis can destroy a large part of Western culture. Stokes is tasked with putting together a team of fellow art experts to steal what has already been stolen. Among his team are museum curator James Granger (Matt Damon), historian Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), sculptor Walter Garfield (John Goodman), architect Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), art dealer Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) and English friend Hugh Bonneville (Donald Jeffries). Granger also finds Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett) in France, who helps the team track down the missing art.

This is a great story and it is surprising that it is not more widely known as a part of World War Two history. As Clooney says in the film – and I’m paraphrasing here – you can take away a lot from people and they will eventually regroup, but it is a true devastation to wipe away their history and culture so that it is like they never existed. It is this message that makes the film so poignant. Unfortunately, Clooney, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Grant Heslov, emphasises the moral of the story a little too much so that what was an initially very moving speech soon becomes a repetitive point.

The performances are all solid. Clooney leads the pack and is his charming self. Damon is very funny but a little too much like his Ocean's character. It is great to see Dujardin on screen again. Murray has a particularly memorable shower scene (I never thought I would write that). It is a shame Goodman does not have as much to do in this film but he does impress when he is on screen. Blanchett can do no wrong and she again gives a stand-out performance in this film with a perfect accent and appropriately stiff body language.

The Monuments Men is a little too long and self-indulgent at times, but it looks like everyone had fun making it and it has some great moments.