Review: The Monuments Men
With a cast including George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray to name but a few, I can’t have been the only one expecting Oceans’ 1945 from this film. George Clooney (looking about as convincing as an arts scholar as Nicholas Cage did as an American historian in the National Treasure movies) continues his transition into a Hollywood elder statesman as the old dog who enlists a ragtag group of character tropes into a daring mission to recapture stolen artworks from the Nazis. Continuing the Oceans metaphor, Matt Damon is upgraded in Brad Pitts’ absence, Bill Murray and Bob Balaban are the comic relief duo, John Goodman is John Goodman and Hugh Bonneville, Jean Dujardin and Dimitri Leonidas are the token Brit, Frenchman and good German respectively. Cate Blanchett is also squeezed in occasionally as an unwilling Nazi collaborator/ resistance sympathiser in occupied Paris who helps the team locate their prize.
George Clooney stars, directs, produces and co-writes the whole affair but unfortunately does none of the above particularly memorably. The respectable production values and stellar cast can be attributed to Clooney’s star power. The direction is functional but forgettable. However points are earned by its refreshingly lush colour palette. It’s not Speed Racer but it’s a refreshing change from the grey and brown typical of a war drama. The dialogue starts off rough but improves over time; it’s the wayward plot and inconsistent tone that confuses me however. Loosely adapted from Robert M. Edsel’s book of the same name, the film feels like an inconsistent hodgepodge of the best bits from the book. There is no clear goal in sight and developments seem to occur just because. The closest thing to a main villain is dispatched by pure coincidence and characters pair off for adventures that end as soon as they start. With the plot zooming across the map seemingly at random, the film finds no reason to settle into a consistent tone veering between light comedy and serious drama. I liked this aspect of the film but fully admit the flaws in this format. The drama was engaging (with Cate Blanchett staring down an SS officer whilst under fire being a highlight) and the humour is subtle, finding comedy in the ridiculousness of war. I’m in an unusual position where I enjoyed a film in spite of, or even because of, its flaws. While I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend you see it in cinemas, maybe watch it on Netflix in a few months’ time and see if you agree with me. Incidentally, if you do then I think we should be friends.