George Clooney’s The Monuments Men promised more than it delivers. The stellar cast are let down by the film’s uncomfortable structuring.
During World War II, a platoon led by George Stokes are tasked with artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves. With so many art works missing, the team face the extensive challenge of tracking them down and returning them to their owners…
Produced, directed, co-written by and starring George Clooney, The Monuments Men sends a clear message on the importance of art in culture, society and history. This is an admirable theme, based on an admirable real-life mission.
Where The Monuments Men comes undone is in its structure. There is little character development of the main players in the film. Instead of getting to know the protagonists, viewers are offered a montage sequence at the beginning of the film in which the men are called to action. This does not give the audience a chance to get the to know the characters as individuals, or get a real sense of their relationships with one another.
As a result, it is hard to feel engaged by these characters. Although the overall mission is commendable, The Monuments Men does not really connect its protagonists with the audience. The mission undertaken is an interesting one. However, it lacks the peaks of drama and tension needed. The climax of the film does not pack the punch it should.
There is an unevenness of tone that pervades proceedings. Whilst the assignment of the team and the wider context is of course serious, The Monuments Men leaves small gaps for lightness. The comedy here is gentle, and exudes the nagging feeling that the humour was supposed to be more amusing than it is.
The Monuments Men features a desirable cast that are underused for the most part. This is particularly true of Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin. Matt Damon has a little more to do, but his character is devoid of sufficient personality.
The fact that The Monuments Men focuses on the events rather than the characters did not have to be a negative. However, because of the lack of time dedicated to introducing the characters, the film fails when it tries to inject emotion or a sense of danger. On paper, The Monuments Men had the makings of a decent movie, but in reality it falls short.