The Monuments Men

If there is one word that best describes the devilishly handsome George Clooney it is – Hollywood. The man simply does all things well. Acting, writing, directing, and even producing a variety of films, he is a workhorse in Hollywood, and continues to make films that are not only relevant but also timeless. A number of his films, especially his directorial efforts, can be transported into any decade and into any culture. All of his films share an enduring characteristic that defines what a Hollywood film should be. His films always contain integrity, artistry, and most importantly it also hones in on a story and a message that is worth exploring. Couple that with Clooney’s natural charisma, charm, and talents, his films are always a welcoming presence to any theater. Sure, Clooney has had his fair share of flops and financially bombs, but when looking back at his greatest achievements in film it will become apparent that George Clooney personifies all that is right with Hollywood.

George Clooney and Matt Damon in The Monuments Men

George Clooney and Matt Damon in The Monuments Men

For his fifth directorial effort, George Clooney is teaming up with his frequent collaborator, Grant Heslov, to bring a true story to the World War II subgenre. Based on Robert M. Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, the film follows the story of an unlikely group that is assigned the mission of rescuing and returning masterpieces of art and other culturally relevant items to their rightful owners before Hitler and the Nazis destroy an entire culture. Can these men succeed at this almost impossible task, and protect works of art that represent 1,000 years of culture?

The Monuments Men is a well-crafted throwback to the vintage war films. It clearly pays homage to these old Hollywood films by telling a story in a wholesome manner and with an extraordinary group of actors that calls a resemblance to ensemble films like The Dirty Dozen. The script is more than competent in telling and presenting history under a new light, the cinematography is elegant, and the score is powerful and sentimental. Overall, this film is occasionally nostalgic, sublimely graceful, and always engaging. Clooney has wonderfully shaped a film that offers us a lot of inspiring moments by showcasing a true story that has almost become forgotten among other World War II stories. At its core, The Monuments Men is a meaningful tribute to all the men and women who have risked their lives serving their country and protecting culture. It truly is a beautiful story that demonstrates what is worth fighting for, and shows the importance of preserving and appreciating one another’s culture. With plenty of information that is surrounded by earnest detail, the movie always pushes forward with amiability and urgency. The Monuments Men is timely, poignant, and meaningful.

While the superlative true story transitions nicely into fascinating storytelling, the aspect that makes this film undoubtedly entertaining is the great cast. This is truly an ensemble piece as the entire cast is given ample screen time to shine and share the limelight. They all wonderfully work well off one another, and they collectively have the same aspirations. There are plenty of moments of humor, suspense, and genuine emotion thanks to the exciting cast. Their interactions keeps the audience engaged throughout, and also invested throughout. However, the most impressive feat of the film is how Clooney and Heslov broke up the great cast and placed them into pairs and also into moments that feel like it is the pairs’ own film that is within a film. The iconic Bill Murray and the understated Bob Balaban are simply delightful together and offer humor and heartfelt sequences. The always strong John Goodman and oscar winner Jean Dujardin are equally delightful in their adventures, and they make a team that is irresistible. The great Matt Damon and the lovely Cate Blanchett round out the other duo that is terrific to watch. They share many scenes that are full of charm and warmth. Add Clooney and Hugh Bonneville to the ensemble, and you get a historical drama that never stops being entertaining.

There is a lot to admire in The Monuments Men, and while the film might not be Clooney’s masterpiece due to some flaws in the film’s balance- most apparent in the rushing and dragging in certain areas especially in character and plot elements- the movie is high quality entertainment that brings forth another side of the war we rarely think about let alone discuss. We all die, but in our everlasting culture and in our society’s greatest achievements we as citizens have the right to share these artifacts and most importantly live on in each type of art.

The cast includes: George Clooney (The Descendants), Matt Damon (True Grit), Bill Murray (Lost In Translation), John Goodman (Flight), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Hugh Bonneville (Downtown Abbey), and Bob Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom). It was written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov (Good Night and Good Luck). It was also directed by George Clooney (The Ides of March).


3.5 out of 4 stars

-By Louie Coruzzolo


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