The Monuments Men
There is nothing like a good romp through Europe in a classic World War II movie. Loyalty, courage, a common enemy and no small degree of humour in the face of adversity to keep your spirits up. Jolly good stuff.
The Monuments Men has an extra element of interest. Here the objective is not to beat the Nazis, but to save stolen art. This movie isn’t about vanquishing the enemy, instead it concerns saving an important part of Europe’s treasures.
The film is based on a book by Robert M. Edsel of the same name. George Clooney wrote the screen play, directed and starred in the movie. In a stellar line up the cast also includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin and Hugh Bonneville. Cate Blanchette provides the only female lead, as Claire Simone, the assistant curator of a French museum.
It is nearing the end of World War II when US Army Lieutenant Frank Stokes (Clooney) alerts his superiors to the fact that while Hitler may be losing the war, the Allies are losing priceless artworks to the Nazis. He is tasked by President Roosevelt to lead a team of Art historians, Museum curators and architects into Europe to search out and protect valuable artworks. Hitler has issued a directive that if he loses the war or dies all the artwork the Nazis have been amassing during the War is to be destroyed. The Monuments Men are desperate to prevent that happening. As Stokes says “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.”
The recruiting and basic training scenes were particularly enjoyable, and when the eventual team of ‘soldiers’ were kitted out in their khaki uniforms I had ‘Dad’s Army’ flashbacks. Just like Captain Mannering, Clooney leads a band of older somewhat unfit yet determined men keen to do their part in the War. There were also definite similarities to ‘Ocean’s Eleven’. You have the group of experts in their fields, a virtually impossible mission to pull off and of course Clooney and Damon.
Although set against the backdrop of War, there are many light hearted moments throughout the film. Bill Murray needs no lines to amuse me, his expressive face alone is sufficient. Teamed with Bob Balaban, the two provide many of the funnier moments in the movie. Matt Damon’s ‘fluent’ French is another source of amusement, reminding me of classic ‘Allo Allo’ humour.
It can’t all be fun and games though. Let us not forget this is war. With war comes casualties. I admit that yes, I cried at one point. The question is raised during the movie as to whether a piece of art is worth the life of a man. Perhaps not satisfactorily answered by the story, you will have to make your own mind up.
The score by Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) was engaging and appeared a homage to the composers Maurice Jarre and Eric Coates of such war classics as Laurence of Arabia and Dambusters.
A great cast and a worthy theme come together in an entertaining package. Although slightly unwieldy and disjointed, at times seeming more like a series of vignettes than one story, the movie as a whole works and is both enjoyable and well worth seeing.
Rating: M Violence.
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