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Blu-ray Review: 'The Monuments Men'

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The Film:

The Monuments Men” tells the true story of a brave group of Allied soldiers whose job it is to protect, search for, and return priceless works of art during World War II. The team is comprised of art experts including Frank Stokes (George Clooney), James Granger (Matt Damon), Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), and Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin). The team eventually breaks into smaller groups in an attempt to complete several missions, including locating the Van Eyck altarpiece and the protection of a Belgian church with several art pieces inside. Meanwhile, Granger tries to persuade a Paris curator, Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), that their cause is genuine and that she should help them. Eventually, the group learns that the Nazis are destroying several art pieces instead of losing them to the Allies, in addition to the fact that the Russians are taking art for themselves as war reparations. With time now against them, they must work even harder or risk losing these priceless works forever.

This is a rather hard movie to describe in terms of how enjoyable it ends up being. As a film, it’s just kind of… there on the screen. For about two hours, not much in the way of plot occurs, and yet, I wouldn’t exactly call it boring. However, it’s pretty hard to say that it’s particularly good either. It features an outstanding cast (George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, etc.), and they do help lift the film up considerably, but ultimately it’s the sub-par screenplay by George Clooney and Grant Heslov that lets the ensemble down. It doesn’t really give them very much to do, nor anything particularly interesting to say, leading to a film that, as mentioned earlier, just sits there on the screen. It really is a shame because this is one of the most incredible casts ever brought together. One can only imagine what would have happened had it been for a better project. “The Monuments Men” certainly had potential (it was even considered an Oscar-frontrunner last year before it was moved), but even a cast this good can’t cover up the film’s blandness.

Video/Audio:

“The Monuments Men” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that features one of the best pictures I’ve seen in a while. The picture is perfectly sharp and shows no sign of fuzziness throughout the entire two-hour presentation. Even scenes that take place in very dark locations are as clear as can be. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is presented at perfect levels, making no adjustments necessary. For the most part, “The Monuments Men” is a quiet film, but great care has gone into the audio to make the dialogue and score sound fantastic. Overall, there’s not a fault to be found in either area.

Special Features:

George Clooney’s Mission: A behind the scenes look at the making of the film that focuses on Clooney and features interviews with the cast and crew. It doesn’t go into much depth, but you do learn a little bit about Clooney’s method as a filmmaker.

Marshalling the Troops: Another featurette that features interviews with the cast and crew, this time focusing on the ensemble. Again, it doesn’t go into much depth, but it still makes for an interesting watch.

Deleted Scenes – Two scenes that total about two minutes. As usual, it’s easy to see why these were left out, so it’s not particularly worth watching.

In Their Own Words: A fascinating featurette that features interviews with the actual Monuments Men, who describe how they became involved and how they carried out their mission. Definitely worth watching.

A Woman Amongst the Monuments Men: A short featurette about the real woman who inspired the character of Claire Simone. It’s brief, but worth watching as well.

Conclusion:

While “The Monuments Men” boasts one of the most impressive casts seen on screen for a long time, the film is ultimately a letdown due to its sluggish pace and uneventful plot. There was great potential in this story of a brave group of people who wanted to preserve important works for future generations, but sadly the film doesn’t do it justice, resulting in a forgettable tribute to these courageous art lovers.

Score: 3/5

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Pompeii, 3 Days to Kill, Grand Piano, Her, Orange is the New Black: Season One, I, Frankenstein, Final Exam, Evilspeak, Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Four, The Legend of Hercules, Dead Shadows, Sorcerer, Copperhead, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Best of Bogart Collection, Beneath, American Hustle, Kill Your Darlings, The Slumber Party Massacre, Inside Llewyn Davis, In Fear, Oldboy (2013), Cold Comes the Night, Gravity

Now playing in theaters: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Draft Day, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nymphomaniac: Volume Two, Nymphomaniac: Volume One, Bad Words

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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