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Five Views: The Monuments Men

February 14, 2014

The Momuments Men PosterThe Monuments Men – A Sony Pictures Release

Release Date: February 7th, 2014

Rated PG for language and some war violence

Running time: 118 minutes

George Clooney (dir.)

George Clooney (screenplay)

Grant Heslov (screenplay)

Based on the book by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter

Alexandre Desplat (music)

George Clooney as Frank Stokes

Matt Damon as James Granger

Bill Murray as Richard Campbell

Cate Blanchett as Claire Simone

John Goodman as Walter Garfield

Jean Dujardin as Jean Claude Clermont

Hugh Bonneville as Donald Jeffries

Bob Balaban as Preston Savitz

Dimitri Leonidas as Sam Epstein

Justus von Dohnányi as Viktor Stahl

Matt Damon (left) and George Clooney in Columbia Pictures' THE MONUMENTS MEN.

©Sony Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

James Granger (Matt Damon) and Frank Stokes (George Clooney) in The Monuments Men.

Our reviews below:


The Monuments Men Review By John Corrado

**1/2 (out of 4)

George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, The Monuments Men sheds light on a fascinating and lesser known chapter in World War II.  Although not the Oscar contender that the initial December release would have implied, this is a fine movie that provides solid counter programming for a month like February, especially for older moviegoers.

When thousands of famous works of art were taken by the Nazis and held hostage in Germany during WWII, art historian Frank Stokes (George Clooney) came up with a plan to locate and rescue the stolen art.  His unlikely group includes James Granger (Matt Damon) who gets help from French curator Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) and Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville).  But the team has to work quickly, because of a decree that the stolen artifacts will be destroyed if Germany falls or Hitler dies.

These various characters seem to drop in and out of the picture, and many of them aren’t developed past the point of archetypes.  This is matched by a tone that shifts between scenes, some feeling humorous and lightweight, with others being more dramatic.  But The Monuments Men is always entertaining, and the episodic feel of the script allows for some very good scenes.  Every member of the cast gets their time to shine, including two standout moments with Bill Murray and Bob Balaban, the first when they share cigarettes with a young German soldier and the second a touching Christmas sequence.  There is also some heartfelt commentary about the important role that art plays in society.

The final scene is totally sentimental and the film as a whole feels like something that could have been made in the direct wake of WWII, but I think this adds a certain charm to the handsome production.  The intentions of George Clooney are noble throughout, and The Monuments Men is a good old fashioned war movie, recalling how they used to make them.


The Monuments Men Review by Erin V.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Directed by George Clooney, The Monuments Men is based on the true story as written in the book by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter.  While names and minor details are changed, the gist of the film is the same – a group of American soldiers were put together into a task force to find famous works of art stolen by the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners before the war was over.  Hitler had not only stolen the works, but demanded that if he was killed or Germany fell, they were all to be destroyed.

In the film version, Frank Stokes (George Clooney) heads up the mission and works with a team of six others – James Granger (Matt Damon), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), the French Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), and English Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville).  Together, they have to figure out where the art is, and then get behind enemy lines to retrieve it.  Thanks to a woman named Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett) who worked at one of the galleries that the Nazis stole the art from, they have a few clues to work from.

The Monuments Men has the feel of an older film at times – there is minimal language and content, besides minor PG-level wartime violence.  Overall, it feels like it aims to be quite accessible to an older demographic, which will fare well for it.  The film also features a classic style score by Alexandre Desplat that perfectly matches the time and setting of the film.

Overall, The Monuments Men will be enjoyed by those interested in this piece of history and time period.  While it is not an awards worthy film (and the filmmakers knew this and pushed it back from November to February), it is entertaining enough and provides an opening for a discussion about art and its history.


The Monuments Men Review by Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Based on the true story of the soldiers who protected art from Hitler’s wrath, The Monuments Men introduces viewers to this fascinating piece of history.  Director and co-writer George Clooney stars as Frank Stokes, an art professor who recruits a group of artists and art experts to find art that was stolen by the Nazis, and get it back safely.

As an artist myself, I find this art history fascinating.  While The Monuments Men could have gotten into the history of what the Nazis called “degenerate” art (art created by artists who were Jewish, had special needs, or were influenced by non-Western cultures), The Monuments Men is a fine introduction to WWII art history.  The acting is decent, Alexandre Desplat’s score is fun (he even gets a brief cameo), and the film feels like it was created in an earlier era.  With no more violence or language than necessary for the story, The Monuments Men is a good choice for middle or high school classes, or for senior or church groups.


The Monuments Men Review by Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Individuals with a special interest in art history and WWII history might want to check out George Clooney’s movie, The Monuments Men.  Based on the true story and inspired by Robert Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men, the movie shows how a group of art directors, artists and historians formed an army unit and went to Europe to find and rescue the many, many works of art that Hitler and his troops stole and hid away.

George Clooney co-wrote, produced, directed and portrays the leader of the special “monuments men” unit.  The rest of the unit is played by Matt Damon, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban and Jean Dujardin.  The Monuments Men is watchable thanks to the strong cast which also includes Cate Blanchett as Claire, a museum secretary whose knowledge is integral to finding the stolen treasures.

The Monuments Men almost plays as a homage to some of the older war movies.  There is a lighter tone at times and the lack of inappropriate content make it something that seniors or older school groups could comfortably watch.  The movie provides a good introduction to the story of stolen art and its eventual recovery as well as providing solid entertainment.  Along with the good acting, composer Alexandre Desplat’s pleasant score makes this a movie worth sitting through especially if the subject matter interests you.


The Monuments Men Review by Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

The Monuments Men is based on the book by Robert Edsel about a small team of mainly American art experts who went through Europe in the last year of WWII searching for art looted by Nazis and preventing further damage from allied aerial bombing. Following the war, over 350 of them were devoted to returning the millions of pieces to their original owners, and their work continues today. The movie highlights some of their accomplishments, though the character names, based on composites of real people, are fictitious.

Director George Clooney co-wrote the screenplay with Grant Heslov and stars as the leader of the group that includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Jean Dujardin and Dimitri Leonidas. Cate Blachett plays a Parisian gallery worker who cooperates with them. Despite the strong cast, between some preachy bits from Clooney’s character, the tone is rather light for the subject and somewhat episodic, much like American war films of the 1960s that boomers like me grew up with, including a score from Alexander Desplat (who has a cameo part) that recalls Hogan’s Heroes or The Great Escape.


Consensus: Although the tone is sometimes inconsistently light, The Monuments Men has the entertaining feel of a good old fashioned war movie from another decade, with a strong ensemble cast and good direction from George Clooney.  **3/4 (Out of 4)

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