run time: 118 mins
considered: Action, Biography. Drama
starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, Dimitri Leonidas
movie summary: George Clooney is Frank Stokes, a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II. He briefs President Franklin D. Roosevelt about Hitler and Germany’s hostile take over of Europe’s most famous pieces of artwork. Since the beginning of the war Hitler has been raiding some of Europe’s most prized art collections and museums to hoard everything for his personal museum, which is under construction and will be the world’s largest private collection when it is complete.
Stokes explains that human history needs to be preserved through these paintings, sculptures, and artifacts. He asks for permission to assemble a team of men in order to track down some of the worlds most valuable artwork and protect it from Hitler. The President agrees so Stokes recruits James Granger (Matt Damon), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), Frenchmen Jean-Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), and british solider Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) before heading over to Europe.
Each one of these men were recruited for their talents in relation to architecture, recognizing famous artwork, and past museum curatorial experience. After passing through a very quick boot camp, the men arrive in Normandy after D-Day and adopt the nickname the Monuments Men based on their mission duties. They gather for a meeting before breaking off into pairs to go search different cities. Granger heads to Paris where he meets Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), who happened to work in the German head offices, where she witnessed first hand a few thousand pieces of stolen artwork come through the office. Campbell and Savitz head from town to town and have a drink with a high-ranking German officer who has about 100 stolen pieces of artwork at his cottage. Garfield and Clermont follow-up some leads before landing in the middle of some crossfire which leave both of them severely injured. Stokes goes from U.S. base camp to base camp with the help of his German-speaking private Sam Epstein (Dimitri Leonidas). He has the battle map and keeps track of everyone’s progress via radio and updates the men on any new leads he gets during the day. Jeffries heads into the small town where the famous Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo is being kept inside a Catholic church. He warns the priests that this artifact will be stolen and they don’t believe him. Later that night some German military officers show up, kill Jeffries, and steal the sculpture. Stokes gets the grim news of Jeffries passing and vows to locate then rescue the Madonna sculpture no matter what it takes, in honor of their fallen brother.
Despite all their hard work up until this point, the group have only managed to track down a fraction of the missing artifacts. Granger is able to use his charm and persuade Claire to hand over the journal she kept with all the artwork information. Once he gets this hands on the journal he returns to the group when Stokes realizes the Germans have been hiding the stolen stuff in coal, copper, and gold mines all over the country. While en route to the first mine, Germany has surrendered and the war is all but over, but the Monuments Men still have a job to do. They manage to find over 16,000 missing artifacts and a whole cave full of gold in the first mine, before a high-ranking German officer gets word that the Americans are finding the stolen artifacts and burns down the next mine before the guys can get there.
The stakes of the search get even higher on the way to the third mine. Since Germany has surrendered, American troops need to withdraw from certain cities because Russia has claim over some parts of the country. Unknown to Stokes and the gang is that there is a Russian military officer has been looking for the stolen artifacts too, so the race is on to get down the mine and rescue anything that’s down there. Deep in the earth the Monument’s Men are to recover several thousand missing pieces, but no Madonna and Child. Stokes continues to search for the one piece that will bring closure to the group and the mission but is running out of time because the Russians have reached the town limits and are rolling towards the mine. The guys must get out of there before they risk being shot on site when the Red Army shows up claiming whatever is left behind.
my thoughts: I was warned by a friend who works at the theatre that Monuments Men was only going to be as good as I made it out to be. He was correct in some aspects because I found it extremely hard to get into this story. George Clooney surrounds himself with an amazing cast but this is far from any of their best work. The movie is based on real soldiers and events during World War II but this isn’t a typical war movie with lots of guns and bombs. Instead we are presented with a human interest story that is unique yet rather boring. It’s amazing to know a small group of men risked their lives to protect our cultural herbage, even though these events happen after the majority of the fighting. When they arrive over seas, there is not much left of a lot of cities which leaves them to search for whatever they can find.
The cast has great on-screen chemistry and once in a while someone drops a really funny wise crack that will make you laugh out loud, but the majority of their talk is dry and lifeless. My advice to anyone interested in seeing this movie is just wait for a cheap day or for the movie to cycle out to the cheap theatre because this movie is not worth the full price of admission. Clooney and the gang will most likely have more success when this is released on Video on Demand and Netflix.
my star rating: 4 out 10