The Monuments Men

This film, based on a true story, is about a group of men tasked with recovering the art looted by the Nazis during the Second World War. It takes place with the Allies invading Normandy, and the Nazi forces in retreat all around.

The film opens with George Clooney’s character presenting to his superiors, the plight of the art treasures, the risk of them being lost, and a plea to empower him to get a team together to rescue the art. The scene, inevitably (and thankfully) touches on one obvious question: in a time of war, is it worth risking lives to save art? What do you think?

In that scene, and later, the film message appears to be that the price paid would be worth it, because otherwise the evidence of generations – their art and culture – would be obliterated. And so those generations would be forgotten.

I wasn’t convinced by the argument then, and after further reflection I am still unconvinced. Am I glad these works of art were saved. Yes? Do I think they were worth the human cost? No. And that is probably the insurmountable handicap that meant I was unmoved by the film. The central story is interesting, but it did not draw me in. I found the characters unconvincing, and even the action scenes left me less than thrilled.

The film does mention the fate of the Jews at this time. Unfortunately, for me that dammed the film even further. Alongside the Holocaust, how does recovery of stolen art pieces compare? I also wasn’t sure if there was some subtle message going on when the film seemed to focus on the recovery of two Christian works of art. That made them recognizable (or more recognizable) by the audience. But was it meant to convey something else?

I got a sense when watching this film that George Clooney had stuck to the script and attempted a near documentary style approach without too much Hollywood fantasy. He succeeded. But what that resulted in was something dry and often quite boring. The Matt Damon/Cate Blanchett love interest was like watching a firework soaked in water; you just knew it wasn’t going to get off the ground.

In a nutshell: don’t waste your time. It’s not bad, but it does nothing to make it worth watching.