FILM REVIEW: The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men (George Clooney, 2014)

The Men
The Men

It’s definitely the names that sell this one: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and JEAN DUJARDIN. The film certainly wouldn’t be much without them. It was interesting enough, but not overly. The Monuments Men is based on the true story of a team of art experts assembled to recover stolen artworks during World War II.  As someone without much of an appreciation for art or art history, the subject matter was never going to be enthralling for me. Having said that, I did end up caring about the art… a bit. However, the question that the film asks over and over again is whether art is worth dying for. I personally don’t think it is, but George Clooney puts in a good argument for it (refer to trailer).

There are moments in this film which really deliver. The dangers and randomness of war were well highlighted – in multiple instances it was difficult to tell when something was going to be funny, or whether someone was about to die. My own assumptions about these scenes were wrong on more than one occasion. The lighter parts were enjoyable, and there were various touching moments. The sets were beautiful to look at, and the score by Alexandre Desplat was a great one – give that guy an Oscar already. However, the film was somewhat too compartmentalised (with the different pairs of men isolated from each other for much of the film), and it didn’t quite come together.

MATT DAMON & Cate Blanchett
MATT DAMON & Cate Blanchett

Obviously the cast were good. George Clooney does his usual loveable George, and Matt Damon is ever-the-good guy. My friend and I were discussing him afterwards and how we knew, in one particular part of the film where he is faced with a moral choice, that he would do the right thing. Because MATT DAMON. It would be interesting to see him take on a villainous role (I can’t actually remember whether he’s good or bad in The Talented Mr. Ripley – I must watch that again). There was a running joke throughout the film that he spoke French really badly and it annoyed all the French people that he even tried. You can speak bad French to me any time, Matt Damon. Speaking of French: JEAN DUJARDIN (remember you need to borderline shout his name for full effect). I just love that guy: The accent! The SMILE! The love I have for him… it’s too much. Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban: they were all great. Cate Blanchett as per usual was impressive – her entire presence was different somehow, down to the way she walked – girl’s got scope.

This picture isn't actually from the movie, I just thought it was nice
JEAN DUJARDIN: This picture isn’t actually from the movie, I just thought it was nice

Good old George also directed the film, and there is a hint (or massive indication) of his patriotism: America are heroes! Even though they’re not all American, but let’s put an American flag up at the end to show we were here. I didn’t really mind it, but it was a bit eye-roll inducing. Still, I guess he’s playing to his core audience who will eat that right up. In his defence, he does make films about important events/issues, with The Monuments Men following his other excellent films Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) and The Ides of March (2011). The latter is my personal favourite of his – he plays the future president in that one, naturally. He seems like a good guy (even if he can’t keep a steady girlfriend) and I commend him for bringing interesting and important stories to the masses, and using his status for the greater good in all the humanitarian work that he does.

Good old Matt and Good old George
Good old Matt and Good old George

In isolation there were many great aspects of this film (the acting, the sets, the score, the humour, the drama) but it just didn’t quite come together well enough. There was one other thing that majorly SUCKED about this film but it is a massive spoiler so I will leave that one be for now. If you are an art lover you may be somewhat more engaged than I was, however I don’t really think that was the issue. It held so much promise but it just didn’t fully deliver. But Jean Dujardin and Matt Damon are decent compensation.

3 stars

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