February 15, 2014
There was something lacking in George Clooney’s latest picture “The Monuments Men”. It seemed to have everything you would expect out of a hit film including a great cast and epic setting. A band of middle-aged artists and connoisseurs follow the invasion of Europe to save the artwork of various nations from the Nazi’s commandeering; preserving these countries’ culture after the devastation of the second world war. But with this topic, along with a heavy-hitting cast, the film’s tone kept it from being, well, monumental. What seemed to be a movie with all the right ingredients for a great film, “The Monuments Men” didn’t live up to its collective pieces.
Basing the script off of the true story and book written by Robert M. Edsel, George Clooney attempts to show another side, a more artistic side, to the greatest war our world has seen. Written, directed, and starring Clooney as the monuments’ leading man Frank Stokes, this film assembled an cast envious for any picture. George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, and Cate Blanchett provide an epic arsenal of acting talent that should have produced an amazing film. Where the downfall lies with “The Monuments Men” is in its script and directing. The script was not given the depth it deserved. With this cast, more time should have been given to combining each character together; showing more background and personality for each. The story only trickled through the overly lighthearted tone of the film. Too often, serious scenes were fogged over with bad, playful dialogue and jaunty jokes. It diverted from setting up critical moments that would have created a more intense and captivating story. When significant events did occur, I found myself not caring and being let down because of the playfulness from the scene before (and the scene following).
The script is not the only thing to blame for the excessively sportive mood of this film. The directing was also lacking in generating emotional attachment. Cutting scenes way too short and choosing poorly placed shots kept this movie from it’s fullest potential. Moments should have been held longer to provide the depth of a scene, creating more emotion. This film also had a lot of obvious CGI throughout, but not in the typical sense of monsters or robots. Background objects such as low flying planes, billowing flags, and sprawling caverns of gold and artwork were distracting from what was happening in the foreground. Corners were cut in this way that added to the story’s absence of depth. Everything was kept very light and loose, almost making the film feel like a child’s program. The score was another aspect assisting in its deficiency. Using very quintessential and obvious music, stealing from the likes of “Patton” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai” like whistling and snare drums, involvement in the story was hindered.
All of these pieces, which proved to be the most insufficient means of creating a compelling picture, could have easily been mended, especially given the amount of talent attached to it. I would have loved to see more character development with each role as well as a more serious tone and feel to the overall story. Creating a montage assembling these masterful men was not justifiable for each individual or the collective group. Because of that, the sense of camaraderie was not felt and making it hard to believe this story was based on true events. Shots on a still dolly or tripod made the flow very static. The excess of fading between too short of scenes rushed the buildup in the first act and left you distracted for the second and third. A sense of cinematic understanding needed to be added to this film. The missing intensity throughout, from the script to the shots to the score, all left a disappointing imprint as the credits rolled.
There seems to be a lot of let-down with this movie as I write, but I will admit that this film was fun. It was entertaining to see a group of well-known actors all collaborating and interacting in various scenes. If you’re in the mood for something easy-going and want to hear Clooney, Damon, Murray, Goodman, and others poke fun with quippy comebacks, then this will be a movie for you. From a cinematic standpoint though, so much was missing from “The Monuments Men”, and the buildup to its release was far better constructed than the buildup to its second and third act.