If you love classic movies then you should rush to see “The Monuments Men.” Director, co-writer and co-star George Clooney has crafted a superb old-fashioned entertainment that looks, sounds and feels like one of those great WWII films from the fifties. His terrific international ensemble cast brings to life the fascinating untold true story of some ordinary individuals who extraordinarily risked everything to save our culture from ruination.
Frank Stokes (Clooney) informs President Roosevelt that the war is taking a destructive toll on humankind’s greatest works of art. The Nazis are stealing all of them they can take and destroying the rest. More than just treasured artifacts, these pieces represent who and what we are and an allied victory would be for naught if they are lost. Reminiscent of Clooney’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” Stokes assembles a team of art directors, curators and historians and sets out on a seemingly impossible mission to retrieve the stolen masterpieces before they are gone forever.
Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, “The Artist’s” Jean Dujardin, “Downton Abbey’s” Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, and well-cast new face Dimitri Leonidas splendidly portray the disparate but learned team members with a unified goal. Cate Blanchett, the only female star, also joins them as a French woman forced to catalog the Nazi thefts.
The story is every bit as heroic and gripping as any other WWII mission account. There is humor, heartache and horror as the team must quickly integrate with resentful hardened soldiers and acclimate themselves to their newfound deadly environment. Murray has a standout moment as part of a beautifully poignant scene in which a family recording allows the far away heaven of home to wash over the current hell of war. Another unforgettable moment comes with a shocking find within a cache of art treasure that provides a powerfully succinct reminder of the evils of the Nazi holocaust. Clooney shows a deft yet unassuming hand as director that trusts both the strengths of his story and his actors to tell it. The result is a flawless film that begs to be seen by everyone.