The Monuments Men was a surprise as I wasn’t expecting too much to be honest, mainly as I am not a particular fan of George Clooney. The film was also directed and written by George, so this didn’t really fill me with confidence. I had wanted to see it after watching the trailer as it depicted a piece of the war that I knew nothing about. The cast is strong too with the likes of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett. It seems John Goodman is in every film this year and 2013 as I seem to see him quite a bit on my cinema visits.
The story follows a group called The Monuments Men who are on a covert operation to claim back all the artwork stolen by the Nazis during WW 2. Hitler had a plan to display the famous artwork in a purpose built gallery. This was not just stealing paintings, this was stealing history and culture which is priceless. Imagine every film created over the last 100 years being stolen and displayed where no one, but a select few could see it. So many films recreate history, show cultures from all over the world, display ideals, fashions, biographies of people’s lives as well as creating a message for those that see them. Imagine a generation of people who could not see Casablanca, Ben Hur, Psycho, Jaws, A Clockwork Orange, Forest Gump and 12 years a slave to name a few. This would be a tragedy! The film picks up near the end of the war when it was becoming clear that the Nazis would lose. The instructions were to destroy all the artwork if the loss became a reality, making the need for these men to be successful even more important.
The film had some light hearted moments as you would expect considering Murray, Goodman and Clooney were starring. I think this was important and I believe the aim of the film was to portray what happened, but not horrify it’s audience with the bloodcurdling parts of war, this had been done before. The war however wasn’t shown as a big joke and for the most part this was a serious film documenting a serious story. There were lots of sad moments as well, delving into how these men felt. Remember these guys were not soldiers who were trained for war, they were art curators and art experts, but still playing a vital role in the war effort and still risking and giving up their lives. The film wasn’t too over sentimental either, there were no sickening speeches, no Independence Day cringe worthy moments although there were tears and moments of sadness.
I really enjoyed the performances of the cast and felt as a group they worked well together and clearly had chemistry between them. George Clooney gave a good performance as the man in charge, there was no wisecracking and he was never too casual during the performance. He was able to portray the emotion and the passion that his character had for the cause. When the group started to diminish I really believed the sadness and the determination to succeed. I felt this man would give up his life for his comrades and the operation he had in front of him. This is how it should have been in Gravity, not the smooth Clooney drifting through space without a care in the world. I think I am more disappointed in Gravity knowing that Clooney could perform like this. I really did feel for the men and at no point did I feel that it was unimportant because they were saving artwork and not lives. The cast were a huge reason for me feeling this way as they delivered performances that made me believe that there was a bond between them and a real passion and belief for the cause.
Bill Murray delivered the light hearted moments as you can imagine. His partnership with Bob Balaban worked really well and offered a few laughs along the way. There was a beautiful moment at the camp as Murray’s Character heard his family over the loud speakers. It really brought home that these guys were at war and there was a possibility that they would never see their families again. John Goodman played his part well despite how ridiculous he looked in uniform. I don’t think he could ever get away with looking like a soldier. I think he would have given the Nazis quite a lot of confidence in their war efforts.
Matt Damon was his usual self, the tough one who attracted the attentions of Cate Blanchetts character. Cate played part of the French resistance and was vital in the capture of many pieces of artwork. She had details of a great number of pieces and where they had been taken, giving the men a great chance to take them back. I thought Cate was pretty good, but I wasn’t quite convinced by the French accent. She was convincing other than that and it was important that she was sexy, but still realistic in her role of working with the Nazis and the resistance. It was important that she didn’t stand out by flashing too much skin. The love/hate relationship between Matt and Cate’ s characters developed well and although there was a clear attraction, nothing came of it. This was important in showing that the operation was the main focus of the film.
The search for artwork continues to this day as so many pieces are still missing. There were a great number of monuments men who managed to rescue five million pieces of artwork. That’s a number I can’t even begin to imagine! How many galleries now hold one of the pieces that went missing? How did they transport so many? And who decided where they should go? We also need to remember that some lost their lives bringing the artwork back to its rightful place. A group of men died trying to save a sculpture by Michaelangelo, which may seem crazy, but what if this great artist disappeared from history because no one saw his work? I have been to Rome and the Sistine Chapel and it blew my mind, for people to forget who painted the masterpiece on the chapel ceiling would be a tragedy.
I think you should watch this film, even if it only encourages you to learn more. It’s not an amazing film and the performances won’t win awards, but it does make you think and share with you the thoughts and feelings of those who set out to save the Culture and history of so many countries, sometimes losing their lives to do so.