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'The Monuments Men' is Clooney not at his best

The Monuments Men movie poster
Columbia Pictures

The Monuments Men

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The Oscars are still a few weeks away and who will walk away with what award is yet to be known. It was thought that George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” would be a heavy contender at this year’s Academy Awards, until its release date got shifted from the end of 2013 to today, February 7, 2014. Some thought it may have been because “The Book Thief”, a movie that took place in Germany during World War II, was also scheduled to be released at the end of the year. However, if you choose to see “The Monuments Men” you will discover that it just doesn’t have the quality one would expect for an Oscar contending movie.

“The Monuments Men” is based on a true story of a small band of men, art experts, who are recruited to save and preserve art work stolen by the Nazis during the war. These men were not soldiers, yet were put in harms way in order to rescue these great works of art.

This is one of those movies that Clooney not only stars in, but he also took on writing and directing duties. This is not his first time tackling those jobs, but this movie is probably the biggest, as far as production goes, when he his wearing so many hats. The result is that “The Monuments Men” does not deliver what you would expect. There are many heavy, emotional scenes in this movie, but the story surrounding these moments are rather weak, so you never feel the impact of them. While showing almost every character smoking and using words like “Swell”, Clooney also does not quite manage to capture the time period.

This movie is full of Oscar winning and Oscar nominated actors. Besides Clooney, “The Monuments Men” stars Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett. Bonneville, Dujardin and Blanchett deliver solid performances, but surprisingly, the rest of the cast does not. This is shocking, but true. You don’t feel a real connection with the rest of the characters and as a result, you really don’t care about their mission. There is humor in the movie, but at most it will probably just get a chuckle out of you. The movie can spark a debate about whether it was really important for these men to risk their lives to save sculptors and paintings, but in this setting you end up feeling it was not worth it.

There is no doubting George Clooney’s talent both in front of and behind the camera. However, in the case of “The Monuments Men”, which may have been a passion project for him, he comes up lacking. Not even the music worked in this picture. The movie will undoubtedly appeal to a more mature audience this opening weekend, but it is just not a strong movie and obviously some studio head saw that and THAT is the reason why it got moved away from award season. It is rated PG-13 for some images of war violence and historical smoking.