The Monuments MenThursday 13 Feb 2014
The Monuments Men is based on the true story of a small group of American and British civilians that banded together to stop Hitler from creating a massive museum, filled with the incredible collection of looted art which he amassed throughout his reign.
George Clooney co-wrote, produced, directed and stars in this World War II movie that is a nod to the kind of war movie capers that they just don't make any more – think Kelly's Heroes and The Dirty Dozen.
While The Monuments Men is a war movie, don't expect any gruesomely violent scenes, reinvention of the genre or deafening explosions. It's also worth bearing in mind that it is not particularly action-packed and won't have you hanging on the edge of your seat.
However, what it does have in its favour are excellent production values – highlights being magnificent sweeping shots of the Normandy coastline and bombed out French towns – and a stellar A-list cast who banter their way through the dialogue with a droll camaraderie.
Like the Ocean's trilogy, Clooney has assembled his Hollywood pals – in this case Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and John Goodman – to lead the cast alongside Englishman Hugh Bonneville and French Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin. Interestingly, there was no Frenchman in the real-life Monuments Men; Clooney changed history so that Dujardin could be part of this movie.
Clooney plays leader Frank Stokes, who is based on the real-life George Stout, a charming art historian who helped rescue treasured pieces from battlefields across Europe. Stokes, after persuading President Roosevelt of the merits of such a mission, gathers together a team of unlikely heroes who certainly aren't fit to be soldiers of war.
There's James Granger (Damon), a New York art restorer with a heart problem; a near-retirement Chicago architect, Richard Campbell (Murray); jolly sculptor Walter Garfield (Goodman); a suave, yet poorly sighted French art dealer called Jean Claude Clermont (Dujardin) and a nerdy academic, Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban).
Once they arrive in France the men pair off to pursue separate assignments and are faced with their own adversaries as they search for highly valuable and important pieces of art. However, they don't really get caught up in the battlefields and there is little tension until the last act when Stokes and his band of merry men scramble to beat the Nazis and the Russians to a giant treasure trove of missing art. It's the wartime humour, engaging soundtrack and some quietly moving moments that tell this very important story.
The cast are simply superb, especially Blanchett who portrays a Parisian museum assistant who distrusts the Americans as much as she does the Germans.
It may not go down in history as the greatest war movie ever made, but The Monuments Men has bags of charm and wit and gives a voice to a group of unsung heroes. Well worth a watch.