World War movies are always difficult to execute. Finding the right balance between emotions while keeping to historical facts can be daunting for the most accomplished of directors. So it is perhaps befitting to note that although George Clooney acts well and spends on production lavishly, his direction suffers to find the right balance in The Monuments Men.
The Monuments Men is a war film based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Robert Edsel titled The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. The book title is sufficient to tell you the plot of this war drama. Clooney plays Frank Stokes who assembles a team of art lovers and sends them in the war zone to recover stolen art from the Nazis who are taking it to Berlin for Hitlerâ€™s purported Fuhrer Museum. The 15th century Ghent Altarpiece and Michelangeloâ€™s Madonna and Child become the visual cues that assume the most significance in Stokesâ€™ quest.
The movie starts off with promise and there are even subtle hints of The Monuments Men being a mix of Oceanâ€™s Eleven style of robbery mixed with a generous dose of old schoolHollywood war. But once it unravels, you wonder at the lost opportunity Clooney squanders.
From the time the mission to recover stolen art pieces begins, Stokesâ€™ divides his team into groups that squeezes out the camaraderie of a brilliant set of actors that includes John Goodman, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and Jean Dujardin among others. Worse, when the characters finally meet after their initial briefing, Clooney puts in jarring elements such as a poorly executed scene of solidarity and friendship when Damonâ€™s character steps on a landmine.
Clooney also mixes the tempo uncomfortably. Just when the action seems to pick up midway, a long Christmas ballad slows things down for example. This has the other disadvantage of poor editing coming in the way of telling a coherent story. There is so much happening that by the time the two visual leitmotifs are found, the audience breathes a bigger sigh than the monuments men because they know the movie is finally about to end.
This isnâ€™t a bad movie per se but it is definitely executed poorly. World War movie buffs and art lovers may find this film interesting but there is nothing much to recommend here except George Clooney and Matt Damonâ€™s poor French that elicits the only genuine laughs.