George Clooney returns to the directors chair and as lead actor in “The Monuments Men.” Set during the second world war, Clooney plays Frank Stokes. He leads a team of middle-aged men tasked to find the artistic treasures in western Europe stolen by the Nazis. Among Clooney’s cohorts are James Granger (Matt Damon), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), John Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) and Donald Jefferies (Hugh Bonneville). The men take on basic training with soldiers much younger than themselves and arrive in Normandy just prior to the liberation of Paris.
As they enter France the men break-up into small teams to look for specific pieces of artwork and for the hiding spots used by the Nazis. James heads to Paris and stumbles upon Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett). She worked in a museum that was pilfered by the Nazis, never letting on that she was fluent in German. Although she is resistant to trust James, she finally realizes that his motives are pure and gives James something to really help the team out.
The team doesn't go about their duties unscathed and learn the hard way that they are indeed soldiers. Two team members die trying to save art from being lost forever. But as World War II comes to an end, the team makes great stride and successfully recovers many missing pieces of art - although some items are lost forever.
“The Monuments Men” was adapted from the book "The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History." The screenplay was penned by George Clooney and his producing partner Grant Heslov. The film was initially slated to be released during the rush of films vying for Academy Awards. And it is easy to see why it was pushed to a later date. “The Monuments Men” is a very entertaining film and has got a little of everything to be an enjoyable film, but it is no way an Oscar caliber film.
Although cast with a wealth of A-list actors, the best thing that “The Monuments Men” has to offer is a unique story line. It’s not a story that has been told and regurgitated and retold over and over again. “The Monuments Men” is also refreshing in that it doesn't depend on profanity or nudity to tell its story. So, if you're in the mood for a film with the flavor of a classic film, with an unique tale from the last world war then “The Monuments Men” will be a pleasing choice time at movies.
“The Monuments Men” is rated PG-13 for some images of war violence and historical smoking and has a run-time of one hour and 58 minutes.
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Whatever your movie choice this week, please remember your movie theater etiquette: silence your cell phones and no texting, please don't talk during the film and remove your children if they become a distraction to other audience members. Don't forget that laughing, crying and cheering are always approved behavior and even encouraged.
-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with special focus on Silent Films, see her work at SilentHollywood.com