Review – Monuments Men


by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

The question may be posed, what is it that defines humanity? Is it human interaction? Works of art? Advances in technology? The evolution of the species? Or is it everything all rolled up into one? And what happens when part of what makes us human is lost? Such was the case during World War II when the Nazi regime was stealing works of art from around the world to be displayed in the “Fuhrer Museum”. But the Nero Decree is put into effect saying, should Germany and Adolf Hitler fall, then all of the art should be destroyed. Thus a group of scholars, artists, and soldiers, formed a group to find the art and retrieve it before it could be lost to history. Director George Clooney brings the story to the big screen in The Monuments Men.

A group of eight men is formed by art expert Frank Stokes (George Clooney) with the purpose of retrieving the stolen art by the Nazis. Not only must the group save the art before the Nazis eventually destroy it, as the allied forces are making significant pushes on all fronts and it’s only a matter of time before Germany falls, but the Russians are also looking for the stolen art. The Russians want the art as reparations for the damage the Germans have inflicted on their country. Stokes gathers a rag tag group, with little to no military experience, in an effort to find these vital pieces of human’s history and return it to their rightful places. It’s a race against time in more ways than one.

Once Stokes is able to assemble the team and make their way to Europe, teams are broken up with individual missions. And this is where things start to get a little bumpy. The main problem is a lack of continuity and follow through. With so many side plots / stories going on, it’s hard to give adequate time to one particular element to garner the audience’s interest for more than a few minutes. This also leads to a lack of character development and a dissociation with the audience. Most of the characters get a “big moment” individually, but it’s not enough to draw us in. There is also a lack of impending threat. Everything feels almost lackadaisical, like they are all going through the motions. This is World War II, the stakes should feel MUCH higher.

In terms of the cast and acting, it really can’t be all bad. George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Donald Jefferies, Jean Claude Clermont… there are 17 Oscar nominations and five wins amongst this cast. Cate Blanchett immerses herself in her role, and Bill Murray has a truly touching moment while taking a shower. Scenes like this, filled with this type of emotion and so full with something so simple, it’s what Monument’s Men needed more of. It’s a shame when we’re watching a film and we don’t necessarily know the actor’s names, but we recognize “the guy who won the Oscar for The Artist” or the guy from Downtown Abbey. Individually, the actors don’t really feel stretched and come off as if they could have done this in their sleep. Aside from a few key moments, this was an easy paycheck.

The story of the Monument’s Men is definitely a story that was worth telling. So many events like this happen throughout wars around the world and few of us know the steps that were taken to preserve our history, to save certain lives, or the sacrifices made in order to maintain life. However, this entry, written by Clooney and his friend Grant Heslov, isn’t it. There’s just way too much going on in the film, and the stories are fragmented, leading to some parts of the story being skipped and other areas rushed through. Respect to Mr. Clooney for his effort to bring such a story to the public light, but the Monument’s Men deserved a little better for what they did for the world.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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