The Monuments Men(Movie Review)

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Spoiler Disclaimer-I will not discuss specific plot points, but I will discuss a few specific scenes. This movie does have some powerful reveal moments, and they will lose some weight if you know about them ahead of time. Proceed at your own risk.

Inner Dialogue Voice 1:  Reed should really do a review post. He made that rating system post early on and hasn’t used it yet.

Inner Dialogue Voice 2: He knows, he just doesn’t think the movies and books he might review are particularly interesting to a lot of people.

IDV1: Why doesn’t he just use us(something he hasn’t done since his second post) to introduce the idea that these are simply what he is reading and watching and if you aren’t interested, then don’t read.

IDV2: He should also bear in mind that if he keeps to his resolution he’ll write 104 posts and to quote Billy Bob Thornton’s character in the holiday classic Bad Santa, “They can’t all be winners.”

It’s important to remember The Monuments Men is not Ocean’s 14. Yes, it is George Clooney assembling a team of experts that includes Matt Damon for the purposes of a grand redistribution of wealth, but Monuments Men seems to have trouble assembling these proven elements into a flowing narrative. Clooeny wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this movie. It is clear he cares a great deal about the real events that inspired this film, the problem is the story is just too large to be crammed into 110 minutes.

The Monuments Men was a real group of men assembled to reclaim the art that the Nazis were stealing as they conquered parts of Europe. This was a mission that spanned the entire length of the war and included the recovery of over 6 million works. The film tries to focus in on two specific pieces, the alter piece of Ghent and Michelangelo’s Madonna.

I say ‘tries to focus’ because my number one issue with this movie was how much it jumped around in focus and tone. Towards the beginning of the movie tragic scenes are closely juxtaposed with comedic scenes and I figured this was the movie demonstrating how these men were not soldiers and they were trying to adapt as they were thrown into the thick of things, but this continued throughout most of the film.

As the movie went on, the comedic scenes felt more and more out of place especially as the dramatic scenes became more and more poignant. I mean it when I say there are few world war two movies that so closely highlight some of the atrocities committed in the war. There’s showing action scenes with brave men dying as they fight on, and then there is showing a barrel of teeth extracted from Jewish bodies for the gold.

I have little doubt both the comedic and dramatic scenes in the movie have their roots in true stories that happened to this platoon. The issue again becomes cutting this legacy down to two hours. If you’re dead set on including both the highs and the lows, then you need to find a better way to arrange them so that you give the audience’s emotions enough time to keep up.

Even with that complaint, the dramatic scenes really do leave lasting impact. The reveal of the barrel of teeth, the burning of a Picasso, the confrontation with a German who has many famous works of art but all the paintings have Jewish surnames on the backs of the canvases, these are powerful moments and I give Clooney full credit for including them. It’s just that putting a scene about accidentally stepping on a landmine and now being stuck because you can’t step off in between some of the more serious moments makes it harder to fully appreciate everything.

I enjoyed the movie and if you have even a passing appreciation for art or world war two you will probably enjoy it too. If you’re not a big fan of either I don’t think there is enough to keep you interested. The action scenes are minimal(on purpose), the characters aren’t enough to drive the plot on their own, and the movie can’t seem to decide what it wants to be. But there is great discussion created about what art is worth in the face of genocide and, I know this sounds impossible, but you will hate Nazis more at the end of this movie than you do right now which is an impressive feat.

★★★☆☆ – Worth your time if you like the subject. A reminder of my star system.

As always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.

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