Sometimes when you are putting a film together, the team that you are putting together on paper, just might not translate on to the screen as well as you might hope. "The Monuments Men" is an entertaining little film with a loaded cast but it can never quite seem to decide if it wants to be a serious war drama, or something with a little more of a "Hogan's Heroes" tinge to it then it would care to admit.
Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, "The Monuments Men" are an unlikely World War II platoon that are tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell. How could these seven average guys who are museum directors, curators, and art historians that are all more familiar with Michelangelo & Rodan than M-1 assault rifles and mortar fire - possibly hope to succeed? However as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they found themselves willing to step up to the challenge and ultimately would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind's greatest achievements.
While George Clooney as a director has show a certain knack for making these fun but still kind of serious movies over the past few years, "The Monuments Men" just fell a little short of some pretty lofty expectations considering the pedigree of the talent involved.
As a director and a writer, George Clooney is developing a solid little wheel house for himself as he refines his story telling craft, but with "The Monuments Men" it felt like he overshot his skill set by just getting a little too ambitious.
Wearing the director/producer/co-writer/leading man hat this time out, Clooney still did everything very soundly as he was surrounded by his usual cavalcade of professionals from beginning to end but there were too many elements that felt either by the numbers, borrowing too liberally from other films that he has been in or just all together uneven. A technically sound film with very good production design and immaculately shot the problems were simply elsewhere.
There were moments where it felt like a nail biting spy thriller, and other's where it was leaning a little too heavily on some comedic elements to undercut some of the emotional gravitas. The weak pacing in the script didn't help as there never felt like there was a genuine build to anything and events were either happening a little too fast or not at all as it tried to tell multiple stories and give everyone screen time. Had the characters been cut down just a smidge it could have helped us as an audience connect with these unsung heroes a little bit more.
Clooney was his usual charming self as the leader of this platoon and that's exactly what he had to be but ultimately most of the individual performances get diluted. While I could have easily watched 2 hrs of Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett sparing back and forth, the likes of John Goodman get wasted. Bill Murray and Bob Balaban provided some decent comic relief, but Jean Dujardin and Hugh Bonneville never really got any moments to shine. No one was bad, but the character focus was simply too all over the map and it made it hard to genuinely invest in any of them from an emotional standpoint.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are quite good while the special features include 4 kind of generic behind the scenes featurettes and some deleted scenes.
At the end of the day, there is genuinely nothing wrong with "The Monuments Men" but the rapid fire pace and grand scope that Clooney goes for here as a story teller ultimately makes it all a little disappointing.
2 out of 5 stars.
"The Monuments Men" is now available for rent or purchase from all major retailers and providers on all available formats.