You’ve gotta love George Clooney. Here’s a man with insane amounts of talent, experiences, charisma, wit, and charm. And he uses it all to win over the hearts of film-goers around the world and date supermodels. He’s living the dream. His directing resume has actually been quite impressive since he began taking turns behind the camera (three out of four ain’t bad). That said, we’ve sadly got to chalk up another mediocrity on his scorecard. “The Monuments Men”, taking inspiration from the true WWII story, just isn’t all that exciting, or even intriguing.
“The Monuments Men” tells the story of a group of art scholars brought together by Lt. Frank Stokes to help recover stolen art pieces from the Nazis. Far from the thrilling wartime story it could have been, this story is just that simple. That’s it. No conflict, no real “antagonist” (except the Nazis, of course), no twists, turns, surprises. It’s just a straightforward narrative of a rather straightforward story. “The Monuments Men” get to England; some angry Captain stands in their way for about three minutes; after that, they’re armed, mounted up, and on their merry way. And quite successfully too. There’s hardly an obstacle in the whole film, save for one deserting Nazi, and a child with a rifle. There’s a brief moment where the threat of Russian interference is mentioned; but the men diffuse that with the strategic hanging of a star-spangled banner.
“Hitler wants it all!”
The film does have some positives. The sets, costumes, and cinematography are all perfectly solid. The music is a bit obnoxious at times, but it’s also quite enjoyable and helps things flow along. Clooney’s acting is as expected, charming and likable like no other. Cate Blanchett’s Claire is the highlight of the performances. The woman can truly do no wrong, especially not this year. Damon is his usual self for this kind of film. Goodman, Murray, and Dujardin are all wasted in roles that aren’t given enough attention for us to actually care or engage with them properly. By the time the first one dies, I realized I didn’t even know the character’s name. Which probably isn’t all that good.
The film’s biggest problem is its structure. As I said, there’s no real conflict, or obstacles, or even any kind of plot. We just watch these Monuments Men do exactly what they say they’re going to do, mostly unopposed. The late-blooming Russian threat is so half-assed and unnecessary that it might as well have been left out entirely. The movie really plays out like Clooney having some fun with a story he thought was neat, sadly, it doesn’t lend itself to the film medium.
“The Russians are coming.”
Overall, I’m just kind of disappointed in Clooney. Compared to the cream of his crop, “The Monuments Men” is just so pedestrian. It’s just fluff. No real effort, just a generic, bland trip down the well-traveled road of WWII nostalgia. Even the great cast they brought together can’t save this mediocre outing. “The Monuments Men” just ends up being so damn ordinary.