Customer Review

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For lovers of art and history ... "Now we have to hope nobody kills Hitler!", 17 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Monuments Men [DVD] (DVD)
"The Monuments Men" (2014 release; 118 min.) brings the story, "based on true events" we are reminded at the beginning of the film, of 8 men, tasked by President Roosevelt himself, to try and protect and/or recover the troves of art looted or threatened to be looted by the Germans during WWII. As the movie opens, we are in Ghent, Belgium, where Jan van Eyk's Altarpiece is being dismantled and whisked away. The scenery shifts back to the US where Lt. Frank Stokes (played by George Clooney) is putting together his team. There is the architect (played by Bill Murray), the sculptor (played by John Goodman), etc. etc. Once they get to Europe they split up and head out to various areas (Belgium, France, Germany). In a parallel story, we also get to know Claire (played by Cate Blanchett), a Parisian secretary working for the Nazis but secretly keeping track of everything. To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Several comments: this film is very much driven by (a labor of love for) George Clooney, as he co-wrote, co-produced and directed this (his first since 2011's excellent "The Ides of March", and his 5th overall). Second, notwithstanding what I just wrote, the move is an ensemble performance of mostly all-stars. Besides the ones I've already mentioned, there is also Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin (he of "The Artist" a few years back) and the always reliable Bob Balaban, just to name those. Third, even though this is NOT an 'action' war movie in any way, there are nevertheless a number of impressive looking production scenes, with a cast of hundreds, as Clooney is trying to recreate the chaos that existed in the latter phases of WWII. Fourth, if you don't like art or history, save yourself the trouble as more than likely you will not enjoy this film. Besides the search for the Van Eyk Altarpiece, the other artifact that is a major plot point in the movie is Michelangelo's sculpture of Madonna and Child, from Bruges, Belgium. AS it happens, I grew up in Belgium (went to high school in Bruges, no less), and have seen both these artifacts, but had no idea about their perils during WWII until I saw this film. Last but certainly not least, there is a fantastic orchestral soundtrack to the movie, composed by Alexandre Desplat. Bottom line: this movie is definitely not for everyone, but if you do enjoy a historical drama with a heavy dose of art, you cannot go wrong with this. At one point in the movie, Hitler signs a decree that if he is killed, all, as in ALL, of the looted art works are to be destroyed. Clooney's men get wind of that, prompting one of them to comment "Now we have to hope nobody kills Hitler. I thought I'd never say that", ha!

I saw the film here in Cincinnati at a late matinee. Imagine my surprise when it turned out this particular screening was absolutely PACKED! I never expected that. I enjoyed "The Monuments Men" more than I had anticipated, truth be told. This is a solid historical drama that gave me some insights on WWII, and in particular the preservation/recovery of art in WWII, which I didn't have before. "The Monuments Men" is well worth checking out, be it in the theater or on DVD/Blu-ray.
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