Monuments Men is based on a book which is based on the true story of a group of men tasked with finding art stolen by the nazis during World War II. I can only presume that the book is better than the movie, as the alternative seems unlikely. The movie features some of the biggest and most respected names in Hollywood, yet it was delayed from its planned release date at the end of 2013 to February 2014, removing it from any realistic possibility of award nominations. This is always a bad sign. Clearly the studio realized that something had gone wrong, but the final cut did not fix it. The final product is a film which oddly lacks focus or direction, and which is only occasionally compelling or even interesting.
The film's problems starts from the very beginning, as it rushes through introductions to the cast. I'm sure each of these men had interesting motivations and backgrounds that led them to volunteer for the Monuments Men, but these are ignored or glossed over. At times the movie seems to want to trend to comedy, and certainly the presence of Bill Murray and John Goodman lends itself to such, but any levity is halfhearted. The movie is strangely disjointed, with awkward shifts in pacing and tone. There is a lack of cohesion which I can only guess is the fault of the writer and editor.
I am not a huge George Clooney fan. He once again delivers a performance that has far more Clooney than the man he portrays. The other actors do rather better. To the extent that anything really works in this movie, it is the interactions between characters - not so much the Matt Damon/Cate Blanchett storyline, but the Bill Murray/Bob Balaban pairing was usually entertaining, and the John Goodman/Jean Dujardin pairing produced the most actual feeling in the audience.
The impression I left the theater with is that the Monuments Men were largely incompetent, in way over their heads, and lucky both that any of them survived and that they found any art to save. I doubt that is the message the filmmakers wanted to convey, and I hope it does not reflect reality.
Also, while I understand that smoking was far more widespread then than it is now, this movie comes across as strangely pro-cigarette. Smoking is a central focus of several scenes, and portrayed generally positively.
There is an interesting story behind the Monuments Men. Probably there is even a good movie that could be made from the story, but this is not it. I am tempted to pick up the book, though.
Mako Mori: Fail
What are these?
1. Lone Survivor
2. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
3. I, Frankenstein
4. Monuments Men
5. Knights of Badassdom
6. The Legend of Hercules