Saturday, February 15, 2014

THE MONUMENTS MEN

George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman,
Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban,
Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin

"It was the Greatest Art Heist in History"


All this time, I thought that "The Monuments Men" was shown in 2013. In most of his interviews, George Clooney kept talking about this project like it was an opus. Ok, granted that he was the one who directed it, I guess we should allow him to gloat a little.  

Yet half way through the film which is based on a true story, this nagging feeling crept up on me that Clooney was doing a poor job in presenting the story of this brave group of men. Towards the end of the second World War, a platoon was formed that consisted of highly esteemed art curators and art historians. They were tasked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to salvage and redeem vast amount of masterpieces that was looted by the Nazis. Upon their retrieval, it should be returned to their rightful Jewish owners/collectors. They chose to call themselves "The Monuments Men". 

Instead, Clooney (yes I blame him since he co-wrote it as well) turned his film into a comedy. As Capt. Frank Stokes, (George Clooney) the head of the platoon, he paired his 'crew' into twos and assigned them to different parts of Europe to search for the hiding places of the valuable loot. Thus we are inundated with scenes of comedic pairings where one is basically a sidekick of the other.  Set along to really loud annoyingly irritating 'comical' music whenever they had a breakthrough in their task.  

Then Clooney throws in a love angle for Matt Damon's character, James Granger with Claire Simon (Cate Blanchett with a phony French accent), the secretary of a high ranking Nazi officer who kept records of every piece of artwork which passed through her office for documentation purposes. It is her record books which finally gave the Monuments Men valuable information on the whereabouts as well as the real owners.

The Monuments Men could have been a great movie, had it highlighted the dangers in the clandestine work of this special platoon. Instead, they were portrayed as caricatures who goofed around like they were on a picnic instead of being in the forefront of the various battlefields in Europe.  It is very unfortunate, they were not given a proper tribute for their thankless job in accomplishing such a gargantuan task.

I guess the mere fact that he cast comedians (like Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban) would have been an indication. He added humor to drum up the interest in the story. But this angle immensely diminishes the very people he wanted to honor by making this film.  The ensemble cast though are composed of very talented actors who unfortunately were not able to draw out the true personalities of the characters they were portraying. 

"The Monuments Men" truly wanted to recall an important part of history by showing the effects of war on not only the soldiers, civilians, and society. But also the devastating costs on the damage done to art masterpieces. It is imperative we preserve the arts and culture for the future generation to have a better understanding of history.  But the film missed its mark by presenting a boring film that could not hold the audience's attention let alone its interest in knowing exactly what happened and how it happened.

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