‘The Monuments Men’ squanders monumental talent

Monuments MenFilm: “The Monuments Men”

Release Date: Feb. 7, 2014

Director: George Clooney

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon

Rating: 2 / 5

This film, based on a true story, tells the story of a group of artists who put their lives on the line to protect art and culture in the midst of the largest and most violent war in world history. It’s a message that the film hammers home several times: the culture that the Nazis were trying to steal, and ultimately destroy, is more valuable than perhaps anything else at stake in the war.

It’s unfortunate that “The Monuments Men” often throws that message to the wayside and disappoints with its loose plot and uneven tone.

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The story follows army lieutenants Frank Stokes (George Clooney, “Gravity”) and James Granger (Matt Damon, “Elysium”) as they assemble a squad of seven art experts in order to locate and identify world-famous pieces of art stolen by the Nazis. However, the squad soon finds they don’t have much time: the Fuhrer has issued an order to destroy everything, art included, should the Reich fail. With Allied victory soon at hand, it’s up to this squad to rescue as many pieces of art as they possibly can.

The film feels incredibly preachy at moments, as George Clooney gives his several monologues drilling into the audience’s mind that destroying art is bad. There are several of these monologues throughout the film, and they distract from the rest of the film — because the aside from the monologues, there are few moments where the audience gets the impression that these works of art are really important.

Aside from the preachy bits, the film takes on a comedic, almost cartoonish tone that seems unfitting of any World War II film. While the characters are very well written and play off of each other nicely, they never seem to hit any moments of true gravity, especially with all of the incredibly violent scenes happening around them.

At times, it almost feels like an old World War II propaganda film meant to build up American can-do spirit against an enemy that doesn’t really exist anymore.

That’s incredibly unfortunate, because the much-advertised all-star cast really flaunts their stuff. As mentioned before, the characters are exceptionally written, and all of them are very likable.

It’s a shame that all of the film’s talent and potential was squandered to deliver an almost cartoonish experience, with a few monologues thrown in to haphazardly try to get an important message in. Fans of any of the actors listed on the poster should give the film a gander, but be warned that the subject matter isn’t taken very seriously.