The Monuments Men, directed by and starring George Clooney
The potential within a movie like The Monuments Men is high considering its roll of telling a piece of history. This is based on the true story of an army unit in WWII whose job it is to find and recover lost and stolen art.
“You can wipe out an entire generation. You can burn their homes to the ground and somehow, they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history. You destroy their achievements. And it’s as if they never existed.”
The potential is also in the big names involved. Directed and co-produced by George Clooney, who also co-wrote the screenplay and stars as Lt. Frank Stokes who persuades the President to allow him to put together a team of soldiers to go to Europe and gather up as much of the art as they can, on the basis that the art is important to the history of western civilization.
His team consists of Lt. James Granger (Matt Damon), Sgt. Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Sgt. Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Lt. Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Pvt. Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) and Lt. Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville).
With so many reputable actors, which also include Cate Blanchette as museum curator Claire Simone, it could be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Instead, there isn’t really enough input from any of them to provide a solid foundation for the film, which is very disjointed. It doesn’t focus on any particular character, setting or time, and as such, nothing is fully realized. Each has a story to tell and an angle with which to tell it but neither is given the opportunity to share.
It’s hard to get a sense of any connectivity of any of them to their task. There’s an obvious emphasis on recovering the lost and stolen artworks but little investment is made by anyone individually because there is little time spent with them.
The biggest sense of lost potential comes with the lack of the visual art that is deemed so very detrimental to the success of this mission, civilization and film. The only instance of creating a centrepiece with an artifact is with the Michelangelo sculpture Madonna and Child but even that connection comes off as weak. Where films like The Da Vinci Code and even Titanic gave character to material items, this one fails to do so – leaving a void.
The Monuments Men tries to be too much in one film. There are elements of comedy throughout that lighten up an otherwise heavy setting. These comedic attempts sometimes take away from the smooth telling of the story. The film makes the mistake of trying to cover too much ground instead of picking something to focus on and narrowing in to create a complete part within the whole.