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The Monuments Men Review from Film Blog (2014)

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The Monuments Men Review from Film Blog (2014)

Post by Mazy on Tue Feb 18 2014, 03:13

The Monuments Men (2014)

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Monday, 17 February 2014
Running Time: 1 Hour 50 mins
Genre: Biography/War
Estimated Budget: $70, 000,000
Estimated Gross: $43, 670,000
Director: George Clooney
Writer: George Clooney, Grant Heslov (Screenplay)
Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman

Tonight I had the very inspiring and pleasant pleasure of seeing The Monuments Men. I believe it has not been getting the best of reviews from many critics. Well I am here to tell you that critics don't necessarily know everything.

The Monuments Men is a great directorial effort from the incomparable George Clooney who also stars in the movie. The film is based on real events that took place in World War 2. The screenplay is adapted from the novel by Robert M. Edsel: The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. The title of the book gives you a clue as to what the story is about. Clooney plays Frank Stokes an American Art Historian who implores President Roosevelt to allow him to take some experts into the field to recover the stolen art, sculptures and statues that were being stolen by Hitler. His plan was to create the Fuhrer Museum in his homeland made up of the greatest pieces of art that have ever been created, from all over Europe. Stokes gets the President's approval and he gets his team of 6 men together, goes through basic training in England and then heads off to the front with all the clues they can find as to where Hitler has hidden the art. It is when they are fruitlessly searching Europe that Hitler signs a directive that states if he should be killed or Germany lose the war all of the art that has been stolen is to be destroyed. This means the men are on a race against time to find the treasures, as it is inevitable at this stage in the war that Germany will lose.

I was extremely excited about the ensemble cast in this movie, this year has seen some incredible actors gather together to make some masterful contributions to cinema and The Monuments Men is no exception. Joining Clooney's Stokes are Matt Damon as James Granger a curator at New York's MET, Bill Murray as Richard Campbell an architect, John Goodman as Walter Garfield an art historian, Jean Dujardin as Jean Claude Clermont the only Frenchman in the group, Hugh Bonneville as Donald Jeffries representing the British, a disgraced drunk who is given a second chance and Bob Balaban as Preston Savitz another master of his field. Together they pair up and travel to locations across Europe where they search tirelessly.

While they do this Damon's Granger travels to Paris and meets Cate Blanchett's Claire Simone who worked in the Jeu De Paume art museum as its curator, she also happened to work for the resistance and kept tabs on all of the art that came and went from the museum during the German occupation. Blanchett is superb in this small but pivotal role, (watch out for the faultless French accent - the Australian actress is a wonder to behold) Claire is bitter, art is her life and she has watched it slip through her fingers. She is not about to trust some hotshot American who claims to want to help save it. She does not doubt his intentions but she does not believe that the art will be returned to its rightful owners, as the Russians were claiming all the art and treasures they found as compensation for their losses. Eventually she agrees to help when faced with the directive signed by Hitler, she would rather it be saved than destroyed.

The pairings of the other monuments men is where the comedy comes into the script. Bill Murray and Bob Balaban get the most laughs as a pair, Balaban's character is not a fan of Murray's Campbell and Campbell gets great pleasure from gently ridiculing Savitz. John Goodman as usual is a joy to watch and has both comedic and heart-breaking scenes in the film, I for one was quite impressed with his performance. He was paired with the charming Frenchman played by Dujardin, the chemistry was definitely evident. I was equally impressed with Bonneville as Jeffries, he played an inspired man who is grateful for his chance and passionate about art. But I would have gladly sat for another hour to see the ensemble as a whole develop, all of the characters have been well written ( you have to remember they are all based on real people, though the names have been changed, it makes some of their actions all the more extraordinary) it is just a shame you do not get to see more of them. There is simply not enough time to get through the story and focus on the characters all at once. They are slightly bypassed at times by the importance of telling the story.

And the story is a great one, the fact that it is based on fact is so inspiring, these men knew that they would not be a part of this war in any other way than to join this group, that is one of the reasons they sign up in the first place, for the honour to help do something. But more importantly they believe in a resounding factor; art is the basic fabric of our culture, without it, we lose the trace of who we are and who we have been, it is not up to one man to own it and it is definitely no right of any man to destroy it. Art is so important to who we are and they believed that strongly enough to risk their lives to save it. It is this plain and simple truth that Clooney drums into the audience throughout the film. It may seem ridiculous that 7 middle-aged men travelled to the front lines just to save some paintings, and even more ridiculous that they believed it was more important than their lives. But I have to agree with the sentiments of the characters and Clooney himself who has jumped on the bandwagon since the films completion and has been imploring countries to return pieces of art to their origins. Art is so important, the arts in all forms are a way to express ourselves and have the ability to sway nations and bring about change.

The film does not romanticize the war, there are casualties, the set pieces and locations are fitting but it is not as raw as other war films in the passed have been. In some ways the film focuses rather more on the art and only scratches the surface of the circumstances of war and being in those situations. The score was very noticeable, a mixture of inspiring patriotic pieces and gentle, moving composition, all very fitting to the scenes in which they were used. Clooney's direction is no Hitchcock or Scorsese piece but this is not a technically focused film, the screenplay is first and foremost the focus.

So The Monuments Men is not the greatest film ever made, god knows, but it has a very important message to deliver to its audiences, one which I believe we should all take the time to listen to. 8/10 for Clooney's best directing gig to date in my opinion. Check it out.
Posted by Mary Slaymaker at 14:08

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Re: The Monuments Men Review from Film Blog (2014)

Post by Joanna on Tue Feb 18 2014, 10:39

A nicely balanced review.

George Clooney fan forever!

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