Friday, February 7, 2014

The Monuments Men

Although not the monumental film they'd like it to be, 'Monuments Men' works well as a historical nod the war films of old. Made for fans of the classic brotherly war films of the '50s and '60s.

Rated PG-13 for some images of war violence and historical smoking.

The Monuments Men

It’s typically a bad sign when a movie is knocked out of a prime place in the season and pushed into not-so-great territory. That was the case with The Monuments Men. Originally set to debut on December 18, 2013, director and star George Clooney decided to push the release back to now, February 7. Mid-December releases are usually reserved for Oscar contenders or blockbusters with holiday draw. Clooney must have realized that The Monuments Men is neither of those – but don’t take that as meaning that it’s a bad film. It’s not. If anything, it’s a playful and warm nod to the classic war films from the mid-20th century and I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it.

When I watch “based on true story films,” I rarely expect them to be historically accurate. I have no idea how much of The Monuments Men is based on truth, but the concept of the film – which is true – is something that I was completely unaware of, something deemed not-worthy-enough of making the history books (considering all of the other aspects of World War II that were going on around it).

Did you know that Adolf Hitler loved art? One of his goals while attempting to conquer Europe was to collect all of Europe’s art for his own personal museum. Noticing that Nazis were stealing art from all of the conquered territories, the U.S. organized a small team of men educated in the arts who could go into the middle of war-riddled Europe and save as much art as possible. These men were not soldiers. Most of them were well outside their prime. But being lovers of art, they were willing to take on this mission to protect the foundation of history laid throughout Europe. George Clooney leads the ensemble cast along side Matt Damon (Elysium), Cate Blanchett (Hanna), Bill Murray (Ghostbusters), John Goodman (Flight), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) and Bob Balaban (Moonrise Kingdom).

Sure, this isn’t the most interesting, funny, dramatic or entertaining World War II film – some might even say that it doesn’t know what type of film it wants to be – but I found that it succeeds at what it’s trying to do: tell a story that you might not know in the fashion of an old ensemble film. Imagine what a World War II film would look and feel like if the Rat Pack starred in it. That’s what you’re getting here – a brisk history lesson in a lightweight manner. With great characters whose chemistry works perfectly, there are enough small laughs to keep it from feeling like every other dark WWII film. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that war is horrible, but it delicately handles it and definitely softens it.

The Monuments Men was bumped from its December slot because Clooney knew what it was not. Despite an amazing large cast, it’s not a blockbuster. And even though it’s absolutely enjoyable, there’s no denying that it’s not awards worthy. To put it bluntly and give it some perspective, The Monuments Men is worlds better than 95 percent of the other films in theaters. If you’ve already seen Jack Ryan, then the only other worthy adult title out there is The Monuments Men.

(Photo credit: 20th Century Fox)

4 out of 5

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