Review: ‘The Monuments Men’ is an unfinished work Special

Posted Feb 8, 2014 by Sarah Gopaul
In ‘The Monuments Men,’ an unlikely group are designated with the task of rescuing artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their owners.
Dimitri Leonidas  John Goodman  George Clooney  Matt Damon and Bob Balaban in  The Monuments Men
Dimitri Leonidas, John Goodman, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bob Balaban in 'The Monuments Men'
Sony Pictures
“If you take away [people's] achievements, it's like they never existed.” This is a sentiment expressed in The Monuments Men to affirm the importance of their mission in the face of the greater battle. It seems trivial amongst such overwhelming death and destruction to worry about preserving art, but eventually one has to consider life after the fighting ends.
When Frank Stokes (George Clooney) addresses the U.S. military requesting they assign men to protect the embattled countries' precious masterpieces, they refuse. But they do offer him the option of assembling his own team to rescue the art himself. Agreeing to risk his life for the cause, Frank goes about enlisting a group of experts (Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban and Jean Dujardin) to do the same. Once on the ground, the small team uncovers Hitler's nefarious scheme for the stolen art that they must prevent from reaching fruition.
The description is very similar to that of Ocean's Eleven but with mostly fresh yet familiar actors. The ensemble cast is exceptional and deliver excellent performances. Frank quips that he’s too old for this; but what does that make many of his older recruits? The childish rivalry between Murray and Balaban is hilarious, and the seasoned camaraderie amongst the amateur soldiers appears genuine. If only the script supported their talent better.
This is an important story about a part of WWII that is generally glossed over in history. It's well-known Hitler confiscated anything of value from the countries he invaded and the people he imprisoned. However, his win or lose strategy for the masterpieces is a little-known fact revealed in this picture, which is both heartbreaking and frightening. Some subtle and other more obvious reminders of the horror of the war are inserted into the narrative, such as a collection of gold fillings and the deaths of some of the key players.
Nonetheless, the tale simply isn't as compelling as the story demands. It relies on the laurels of the cast to draw in the audience and maintain their attention rather than composing a more worthy script. Frank's monologues, while meaningful, seem forcefully included. The tragedies are predictable and not as hard felt as you'd expect from a group of combat novices. The missions – mainly recovering the Ghent Altarpiece, and the Bruges Madonna and Child – feign intensity though their closer to resembling a widespread scavenger hunt. The excitement is in the details, but they're often missing in this case.
Even so, the film is by no means a waste of time. The noteworthy cast does an incredible job with the material they're provided – it just isn't the best it could be.
Director: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bill Murray