Somewhere in The Monuments Men, director George Clooney says, “I am more than a pretty face”. And that is quite true. That the face is exceedingly pretty is an added bonus. While the movie could’ve been tauter, The Monuments Men makes for engrossing viewing. The cast is charismatic, and the premise (based on a true story) interesting.
Based on Robert M. Edsel’s non-fiction narrative, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, the film tells the story of a group of seven men, who are given the responsibility by the U.S. government of saving culturally-important works of art from falling into Nazi hands. There is a feel of Commando comics and old-style war movies to The Monuments Men — maybe that’s what gave that Tarantino feel to the proceedings. Clooney however plays straight — no mind bending subversions here.
The monuments team include the usual band of men from the disgraced alcoholic given one last chance to redeem himself, to a loving father with wife and baby back home. The cast is uniformly good. From Hugh Bonneville as the dry “as of this morning” Donald Jeffries and Matt Damon as the curator of the Met to Bill Murray as the loving grandfather are eminently watchable. Mr Wryly Grinning Crinkly Eyed Clooney as Lt. Frank Stokes who leads the team is very easy on the eye. Cate Blanchett as Claire Simone, the curator who is forced to help the Nazis but maintains a ledger of all the artworks taken by them, is icy cool and warm.
Even though in the beginning the team is met with derision and uncooperative comments, it is finally their finding of the stash of Nazi gold that effectively seals the fate of the third Reich. The film has its share of funny moments — especially Damon’s character’s efforts to speak French — and its poignant ones (finding the barrels full of gold teeth, Jeffries attempt to save Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child at a Belgian Church, the other-worldly beauty of the Ghent altar piece, the heart-breaking Christmas as a young soldier like Snowden spills his secret).
Watching The Monuments Men one wishes a similar team could have saved the Bamiyan Buddhas. In another world and another time it might have come to be.
Director: George Clooney
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett
Storyline: A group of men go about Europe saving art from the marauding Nazis
Bottomline: Jolly good show
Keywords: The Monuments Men