Film Review: The Monuments Men
‘If you destroy an entire generation of people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and it’s the one thing we can’t allow.’
George Clooney’s World War II drama, The Monuments Men, is a much better film than what the critics are suggesting. On the contrary to the ‘slow’, ‘undramatic’ and ‘safe’ words that are being thrown at the film, there’s plenty on offer here to engage audiences and feel the struggles of the men on their hunt for stolen art.
The film sees Lieutenant Frank Stokes, played by Clooney, tasked by the president to gather a team of art and architecture experts in the hunt across Europe for the millions of stolen art taken by the Nazis to fill Hitler’s dream of storing and displaying it all in a proposed ‘Fuhrer Museum’. The ‘Monuments Men’ boasts an impressive line up of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Bob Balaban, as they look to find and restore the art to its rightful place in the final days of the war, with Hitler having decreed to have all stolen art burnt and destroyed should Germany fall.
There’s arguably not enough mention of the artistic backgrounds which fuel the men’s passion to fulfil their quest, although the warm, familiar faces with the energy and humour they bounce off each other with perhaps draws us in and on side.
However, the ‘lack of drama’ argument is one which I cannot fathom. There’s plenty to be drawn in by and narrative strands to keep us entertained. As well as the overarching hunt for the art, there’s Damon’s attempts to get information out of a French spy, played by Cate Blanchett impersonating Deidre Barlow. Goodman and Dujardin are teamed up and on a separate journey, as are Murray and Balaban, with their wit aiding the drama of their hunt for the art, and the various situations it leads them to. There’s also Bonneville’s struggle to maintain Bruges’s Madonna monument, which ultimately becomes the artefact which Clooney needs to recover the most.
The scene in which Bill Murray’s character hears the Christmas message from his family, and the carol being sung is a very poignant moment, particularly with the harsh montage of images of injured soldiers, and the helplessness of some people in the war. Clooney’s calm but angered speech to an injured German officer is also quite moving in one of the more serious moments of the film.
What perhaps is most likeable about this film is the story that needed to be told. Art, culture and history is what brought us all here today, and is celebrated across the world. To bring this true story to our attention is one we all should remember.