Kyle J. Steenblik

Make time for The Monuments Men

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monuments_men_xlgThe Monuments Men is a remarkably fascinating story, told under the steady and reliable hands of George Clooney.  While the movie was, as a whole, entertaining, it was not as riveting as it feels like it should have been.  Perhaps part of that comes from the phenomenal cast and the reputation they bring with them.  By no means do I intend to say they failed in any way to deliver a monumental film.  Had the cast been no-name actors with no distinguished pedigree I may not have felt that particular twinge of disappointment.  Perhaps I was being overly harsh, simply because the film I saw was not the film I was expecting.

I walked out of the theatre satisfied, but underwhelmed.  The question is why.  The answer is so simple I am almost ashamed to admit it.  My historical knowledge was insufficient.  I was therefore unable to appreciate everything, in its entirety that was happening on the screen.  That’s not to say I am ignorant of World War Two history, on the contrary, I am however deficient in my knowledge of what was happening to historical artifacts and artwork in Europe during the war.  As counter intuitive as it may sound, I was so caught up on understanding the events unfolding on screen that I missed the subtle aspects of the performances.  I began watching this film as if it were a historical documentary, which it is not.  There are enough historical details omitted, a necessity for creating a film with a compelling narrative, and I was so actively engaged I almost reached for my phone to start looking up references.  Now, as I reflect, I am recalling more nuance, and depth that I overlooked initially.  One thing is certain; I will see this film again, because there is more here that deserved consideration.

The film felt like a nod to genre films of the past, such as The Great Escape, with some upbeat music, and subdued witty dialogue.  I’ve always loved films like this, not only are they fun to watch; they are a testament to the resilience of human nature.  I’ll bet some of the best jokes were born in foxholes, just as the best art was born of agony.  The upbeat tones of the film are a marvelous counterpoint to the countless horrors behind this story, causing the poignant moments to stand in stark contrast.

Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men focuses on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys – seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 – possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements.

Directed by George Clooney, and written by Clooney and Grant Heslov.  Starring; George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, and Dimitri Leonidas. Rated PG-13 for some images of war violence, 118 min.  See for more information.

The Monuments Men 7.5 out of 10

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