Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Monuments Men (Movie Review)

By Freda Cooper 16.02.2014 1

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! - Oscar nominations 2014

The Monuments Men (UK Rating: 12A)

Cast lists don't come bigger, or more popular, than this: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and John Goodman.  They, together with the likes of Jean Dujardin and UK-grown Hugh Bonneville, are just one of the big attractions of Clooney's latest offering as director and star, the World War II adventure, The Monuments Men.

It's based on the true story about a task force of American art experts seconded to the US army, with the sole aim of recovering the hundreds of thousands of works of art stolen by the Nazis and returning them to their rightful owners. It's a risky mission, taking them to all four corners of Europe and behind enemy lines, made all the more dangerous by their being well past the age of military service and barely equipped to challenge the enemy.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Monuments Men (Movie Review)

While the cast is definitely a pull, it also creates the distinct impression of something more akin to Artists Eleven; in other words, that Clooney and his mates have got together to make a film and generally have a good time. That's doing them a disservice - but only up to a point. Clooney has been very clear in interviews to promote the film that he sees it as more of a tribute to the men and women involved in this lesser known piece of Second World War history. It's an honourable aim, but the film undermines it with its tone. There are times when it is way too jokey and the humour, while amusing, seems to have been thrown in just for the fun of it rather than arising from any of the characters. It does leave the viewer wondering if the actors are simply there merely to enjoy themselves.

That, however, is the least of its problems. Clooney said he set out to make an action adventure in the style of The Great Escape and the echoes are definitely there, especially in Alexandre Desplat's soundtrack. While what was probably the biggest treasure hunt in history must have been full of incident, though, there's precious little action in the film to go with the adventure. What there is works well, but it also shows the audience just what the film is missing and leaves them wanting more - much more. Even in the latter stages of the film, which have its strongest sense of purpose, that tingle of excitement is still missing.

This, together with a disjointed feel, created by the team rarely working together as a group, and a rather soft focus approach to the war (a barrel full of gold teeth and a few ruins are the strongest reminders there are of the mission's context) makes The Monuments Men a genuine disappointment. Given the talent in front, and behind, the camera, the story and, no doubt, the budget, this could have been so much better.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – The Monuments Men (Movie Review)

[score=5]The Monuments Men is yet another illustration that a good cast doesn't necessarily mean a good film. It's not the first and, sadly, it won't be the last. What could have been an exciting homage to the action adventure genre turns out to be rather like the art experts themselves when facing basic military training - flabby and slow.

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Yet another George Clooney disappointment...I'm not terribly surprised, to be honest.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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