These guys really existed. They were art historians, architects, curators and artists, and they played a very important part in saving countless works of art confiscated by the Nazis during World War II from certain ruin. Some of them literally died for the sake of art, and their honorable efforts should be remembered. Unfortunately, George Clooney should not have been the one tasked with doing the remembering, because the resulting The Monuments Men, which he directed, is mostly flat and uninteresting.
Clooney, it has to be said, has been behind the camera on some stunning films, including Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck. These two period pieces, the former set in the Cold War years of the 1960s and 1970s, and the latter during the McCarthy era of the 1950s, both had some wonderfully creative cinematography that enhanced strong and compelling story lines.
But despite a World War II setting in the tumultuous 1944–45 period in the heart of Europe, The Monuments Men offers up a mostly mediocre mixture of art connoisseurs traipsing around Europe trying to secure priceless works before the Nazis set everything ablaze, and very superficial bonding between the men who are sometimes put in life-threatening situations.
The film’s problem is not so much balancing humor and drama — sometimes, as Tarantino proved with Inglourious Basterds, humor can even enhance the drama by delaying the inevitable horror — as it is its standoffish approach to the material.
To read the full review, visit The Prague Post.
(Still of George Clooney and Matt Damon in The Monuments Men. Photo by Claudette Barius – © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.)