The Monuments Men (2014)
Cast includes: George Clooney (The Descendants), Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity), Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), John Goodman (Argo), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Bob Balaban (Gosford Park)
Director: George Clooney (The Ides of March, Good Night, and Good Luck)
Writers: George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck), Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck)
Genre: Drama | Humor | History | Based on a book by Robert Edsel
In Belgium, the priceless Ghent altarpiece is being packed and put on a truck in a desperate attempt to move it out of harm’s way before the German’s get there. But it’s too late… the truck is intercepted… and from there, its fate is unknown. In Paris, works of art are free for the taking. The fat man in the open car is Hermann Goering, on his way to headquarters, where Claire assists Herr Stahl preparing a private viewing. Goering divides the offerings… for Hitler’s Bertesgarten, for him self and to be destroyed. In Italy, British bombs nearly destroy Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, obliterating three walls and the roof. Art historian, Frank Stokes knows, of course, that artwork is not President Roosevelt’s primary concern, but time is critical. As the Nazis lose ground, the fate of art, buildings and monuments is in even greater peril, and Stokes manages to get Roosevelt’s agreement on a special mission.
In New York, he recruits his old friend James Granger. Aren’t we kind of old to go to war? As it turns out Stokes has identified 6 old friends he hopes will become fellow Monuments Men… all of them sign on. “Although the war is coming to an end, it doesn’t make our job any less dangerous,” he tells his team. “I’m not writing a mother, saying her son is dead because we didn’t want to bomb a church tower,” says one commander. Obviously, not everyone welcomes their involvement. At times like these, you have to ask yourself if saving art is worth human lives. Little by little stashes of stolen art are discovered, but the challenges are even greater than they had figured. The little band of art-loving brothers is barely making a dent, and now Hitler has given orders to destroy everything as they retreat. You can destroy people, but “if you destroy their achievements, it’s as if they never existed,” Stokes tells the men.
Based on actual events, writing team Clooney and Heslov used Robert Edsel’s book by the same name as the basis for the movie. They changed names, condensed events and exercised creative license. But since truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, the most bizarre events are the ones that actually happened. Saving art was not the most well known campaign of the war, but it was complex, interesting and demanding. Rather than a scholarly feel, The Monuments Men is a throwback to the heroic WWII films of the 1960s, such as The Great Escape. History buffs and serious art lovers may feel the movie lacks gravitas, but considering the film the filmmakers chose to make, it has all the right elements… good story flow, excellent performances, cinematography, music, etc. You’re likely to be humming the upbeat, heroic theme song as you leave the theater. As a writer, director and actor, George Clooney often strikes gold, and as it turns out, so did the Monuments Men… for real. Some discoveries can leave one nearly, but not totally, speechless… “Holy shit!” “Holy shit!”
3 popped kernels
An heroic WWII movie where the mission is saving stolen art
Gender Style: Bold
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Tempo: Zips Right Along
Visual Style: High-End Production Amateur Video
Nutshell: Protecting and recovering art stolen by the Nazis
Language: True to life