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The Monuments Men (2014) bad movie
USA / Germany, 118 min, Rated PG (ON) G (QC)
Reviewed 02/14, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca
www.ofrb.gov.on.ca | www.rcq.gouv.qc.ca

George Clooney - Director
George Clooney and Grant Heslov - Screenplay
Phedon Papamichael - Cinematography


"Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action-thriller focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys - seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 - possibly hope to succeed?" - monumentsmenmovie.com


Director/co-writer George Clooney stars as Allied Army lieutenant Frank Stokes in this vaguely entertaining, forgettable big screen interpretation of the actual Monuments Men and their frontline World War II mission to rescue and repatriate stolen art during the waning months of Nazi-occupied Europe. Feeling a lot like a simplified, strangely lighthearted piece of old fashion Tinsel Town war propaganda, The Monuments Men marks Clooney's fifth take as feature director, and co-stars Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, and Bill Murray, as enlisted Manhattan MOMA director James Granger, heroic Parisian gallery curator Claire Simone, and American sculptor Walter Garfield and architect Richard Campbell, respectively.

'Monuments Men' was the nickname given to approximately 345 men and women enlisted during WWII by the multi-national Allied Army's Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) Program historically renowned for its impressive recapture and return of Europe's culturally significant artifacts stolen by Hitler. Mainly comprised of arts experts and architectural engineers deemed unfit for service, the program apparently grew from Metropolitan Museum of Art director Francis Taylor's advocacy against the indiscriminate destruction of important private and national art collections, monuments and religious icons during wartime bombing raids throughout Europe. The MFAA was initially tasked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 as a kind of preservation advisory and repair squad of the Allied Forces, but its purpose soon turned to hunting down priceless masterpieces looted and hidden by the Nazis until Germany's defeat in 1945.

In 1961, highly decorated French Resistance spy Rose Valland published Le front de l'art, chronicling her time as curator of Vichy France's Nazi-plundered Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris. Cate Blanchett's role in The Monuments Men movie as feisty Parisian Claire Simone is based on Valland. Pretty well all the character names in this picture have been changed from their factually-inspired counterparts.

This film is loosely adapted from Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, the second book on the subject by War Art historian and American author Robert Edsel, founding president and CEO of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art established in 2007. According to the foundation's website, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt introduced Bill S.1862 to the US Senate in 2013, proposing collectively honouring the actual Monuments Men with the Congressional Gold Medal to be preserved on public display at the Smithsonian Institute. Its corresponding Bill H.R.3658, currently before the United States House of Representatives, cites there were only five surviving members of the MFAA as of December 2013.

In many ways, The Monuments Men plays out like a sanitized, fish-out-of-water bygone rib tickler set during wartime that primarily uses war's intensely brutalized landscape as a non-invasive backdrop. It feels trite. Much less a gritty, compelling quest than Saving Private Ryan (1998), this is essentially a family friendly, art-centric shadow of Kelly's Heroes (1970). Sure, the war in Europe is reaching its end by the time Clooney and his not-so dirty half-dozen boot camp civilians land at Normandy, but there's a weird disconnect between this movie's obvious commemoration of the real people who actually risked their lives to retrieve and protect those Treasures of the Art World, and the predominant lack of either mortal threat or overwhelming purpose experienced or expressed by the majority of this picture's characters. Even when they do face loss - more than once - there's no compelling enough reason given for them to continue hunting for museum Michelangelos and saving those private Renoirs. Worse is when Hitler later orders his retreating forces to destroy the artwork, and the Clooney Crew’s desperately dull reactions further fail to nail its significance in terms of value easily relatable in a contemporary world, where artistic creativity seems measured by how well an infant copy-and-pastes a Mona Lisa jpeg from Google to Blogger. Just sayin'.. (Read more)

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