With George Clooney’s latest film, The Monuments Men, you have a picture sporting an all-star, A-list cast, featuring the talents of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Clooney himself. If you told me last year that the film ended up being anything less than fantastic, I would have a hard time believing you. While The Monuments Men is by no means a failure, it’s nowhere near the film that it could have – and should have – been. Then again, it getting delayed from it’s December release (Oscar season) to now, was a major warning sign.
The tale is uniquely interesting enough. During World War II the Nazis stole hundreds of valuable artwork and had their eyes on hundreds more. A bunch of art historians, artists, and scholars see the problem with that, and decide to come together and join the army to help seek these arts out and keep them from being lost forever or destroyed. Sounding something like a mix between Oceans 11 and Inglourious Basterds, this story is actually a true tale. Which makes it even more disappointing that the tale left me somewhat flat.
Clooney penned the script with his production partner Grant Heslov (they also wrote Good Night, and Good Luck together). You’d think with a cast like portraying such an interesting set of source material, that this would be a walk in the park. Unfortunately putting together a dream-worthy cast isn’t enough. Not when the film lacks a solid tone or structure that leaves you feeling disjointed. I wanted to love this film and fall in love with its world and characters, but it never quite pulled me in or left me feeling fully invested. Which is truly a shame when you think about its sky-high potential.
Each cast member does a manageable, but the characters they play are not defined enough to stand out individually or to stick out in any sort of memorable fashion. We meet them all at once and are introduced in a quick, cut-throat manner. I’m saddened to say that the characters all bled together, completely lacking any thorough development to make us really care about their fates. It never quite finds its groove, sometimes feeling like a serious drama, sometimes leaning towards a comedic front. Mostly, it lands in a territory that can be defined as boring and dull. It doesn’t capture the moment like it should have.
Though, it’s not a complete failure. The set pieces and costumes all feel right and authentic. Just seeing all this talent interacting with each other in the WWII time period provides enough fun and entertainment to salvage the film, even if it is all over the place. The film’s two best scenes are of course, in the hands of Bill Murray. One features a touching scene with Murray during Christmas time, and another is Murray and Balaban’s encounter with an enemy soldier. One was touching and the other was extremely light-hearted. Even the two best moments show the discrepancy between the film’s tones.
I was looking forward to this quite a bit but I never was invested in the film or its characters. Considering all the talent that was left on the table there’s a good movie somewhere in here, unfortunately it’s not with The Monuments Men.