BY BECKI DEGEEST
“The Monuments Men” has received mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. While the film is trying to be historical, earnest and well-meaning, “The Monuments Men” boasts a better game than it delivers.
Based on true events of World War II, it can’t decide what genre of film that it wants to associate with. The audience ends up being dragged across a two-hour (seemingly longer), fairly wide spectrum of confusion, boredom and repetition.
In this action-drama film the audience is drawn in right away with it’s amazing cast and crew. Directed and co-written by none other than George Clooney, who also plays the main character, this film features iconic cast members including Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett. With a cast like that, anyone is bound to be interested.
The film starts with George Clooney’s character Frank Stokes, an art curator, going to convince armed service officials to let him and a special taskforce go into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves, and return them to their rightful owners.
After being granted permission by FDR to send the taskforce named “The Monuments Men,” Clooney goes off to recruit the people he wants to join his team.
Although one might guess otherwise, he doesn’t recruit strong young men, but seven museum directors, curators and art historians of all different ages, sizes and skills. When they get to Germany, they quickly find out just how serious Hitler is about stealing and destroying wonderful art, and they receive a slap in the face after hearing of famous pieces by artists such as Picasso being destroyed, in order to keep them from the United State as well as Russia.
For a movie that is all about saving art, it is interesting that viewers do not see more famous works. Besides “the Madonna of Bruges” and Flemish masters Hubert and Jan van Eyck’s 12-panel altarpiece “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” there are not many in the film. For all its talk about art being “the very foundation of modern society” and solemn sermonizing like, “Who will make sure the statue of David is still standing, the Mona Lisa still smiling?”, viewers may ask “why didn’t we see these pieces in the film?”
While the plot of “The Monuments Men” is compelling and believable, mainly because it is true, there is a little too much repetition on screen. What impresses the most was the spectacular cinematography and brilliant sets which were so realistic it’s hard to believe they weren’t shooting on location where these tragedies occurred.
There are also serious setbacks with the script throughout the film. While Clooney’s script raises the serious question of whether any work of art is worth a human life, “The Monuments Men” does nothing dramatically to make the question or answer that compelling. Yes, this art will be remembered, but will people remember the lives that were risked for it?
Overall, the best parts of “The Monuments Men” are the recapitulation of the genuine art rescuing. The real-life monuments men recovered some five million pieces of art, and if this somewhat disappointing film calls any kind of attention to that, it will have done at least that much good in the world.
While the film had a few weak points, one that made it notable for someone living in this area is that Fargo native Connor Linnerooth was selected from hundreds of extras to play a role in the film as “Telegraph Boy,” a character who gave a telegraph to John Goodman.