‘The Monuments Men’ stands tall with reverent approach...
When George Clooney’s latest directorial feat The Monuments Men got the push from last December’s crowded Oscar season to a softer February open, many raised their eyebrows at the move.
How could such a supposedly sure-fire contender for the Oscar get the boot to the next year’s winter months?
All worries of lacking quality should be calmed, as Clooney’s newest film is no winter flop.
What feels like something shot in the 40s with really, really great equipment, The Monuments Men has an wonderfully old soul. It’s in the realm of movies that call back to the days where honoring the sacrifices of those involved in World War II was the primary focus.
The film follows the story of the U.S. government’s Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program, which entailed a group of artists and architects who attempt to save rare pieces of important art and culture from the clutches of the vile Nazis during the waning days of the war.
Clooney plays the group’s lead-man in Lt. Frank Stokes, with Matt Damon playing his right-hand man, Lt. James Granger. John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balabin and Dimitri Leonidas round out the crew, while Cate Blanchett shows up in a supporting role as a French art museum representative who becomes vital to the group’s quest.
The Monuments Men plays a delicate balancing act with whimsy and gravitas, eschewing not to focus for too long on either to provide an effective blend. It’s difficult to verve into humorous set pieces when dealing with such a serious topic as war, but Clooney manages to do with respect.
The film gives you laughs (witty exchanges between the men in a meeting here, an awkward realization during training camp there), but, since the setting takes place in one of history’s darkest moments, it never lets you forget the somberness any involvement in war can bring.
Clooney’s direction is as reverent as it could be, using Alexandre Deslpat’s rousing score to enhance the film’s gung-ho spirit. The film also gives cinematographer Phedon Papamichael a great palette to shoot on.
Despite the marquee cast, this isn’t an actor’s movie in the slightest. Everyone and everything takes backseat to the story, a highly reverent telling of the Monument Men’s story. Clooney’s script, written with frequent collaborator Grant Heslov, gives you the grand approach to the events that transpired, jumping around just the right amount that they cover all the necessary ground.
Clooney did right by the story, which is more than enough to make this an effort worth seeing.
While this is indeed a narrative-driven effort, the entire cast invests heavily what they’re given, making the team as easy to root for as could be.
There’s not really much of an edge here, which some war-related movies opt to properly have, but the less-edgy approach allows for all audiences to be able to appreciate the men’s efforts. This is a movie you can take your dad or son to, one that teachers could screen for their 8th grade social studies classes.
If anything, this is a film of firm admiration – a good-hearted salute to some of the war’s unsung heroes who risked it all to help preserve a unifying culture in limbo.