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'The Monuments Men' review: A choppy narrative but a charming cast

Half of the stars from "The Monuments Men" attend an event to promote the film.
Half of the stars from "The Monuments Men" attend an event to promote the film.
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

The Monuments Men


Released Feb. 7, 2014, director George Clooney’s new period film blends light humor and the tragedy of war. Behind the battlefield, “The Monuments Men” is about the fight for heart and humanity during World War II, about saving man’s history and accomplishments. With such a hefty subject, “The Monuments Men” does not carry the weight of the task; choppy editing and an underdeveloped screenplay limit the film’s success. However, a talented cast of delightful screen presence keeps the film together.

Frank Stokes (George Clooney) realizes the need to preserve art during the bombings and theft of World War II, so he receives military backing to collect a team of artists and historians to travel around Europe rescuing the world’s treasures. His team consists of James Granger (Matt Damon), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville), Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), and Sam Epstein (Dimitri Leonidas), all with varied skills and knowledge. The team divides up to find and guard treasures across Europe, but their journey leads them into Germany as the war nears its end. Their task becomes more urgent when memos surface from Hitler ordering the destruction of the art if Germany loses. After certain pieces are taken, the team relies on the information that Granger can attain from Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), a woman with inside knowledge on the Nazis’ plans.

Mixing “Saving Private Ryan” with “Ocean’s 11,” the movie follows a small group of charming men. Most of the memorable scenes involve Bob Balaban and Bill Murray, but the team is made up of very likeable men, except Granger and Stokes, who have no personality or appeal. Unfortunately, these two characters are arguably the leads. There is no depth or background to any of the men, but Clooney and Damon offer little warmth.

The key fault of “The Monuments” is choppy editing and storytelling. The opening sequence to introduce the characters is exceptionally choppy, but the rest of the film maintains a bumpy and confusing pace. All scenes feel too brief, and the ending is rushed to heighten the drama.

“The Monuments Men” contains enjoyable scenes, but Clooney’s lighter presentation lacks the finesse and spark of his more dramatic films. The plot pieces together events without having the fluidity of a comprehensive narrative. This flaw loses the intensity and deeper feeling the subject is supposed to inspire.

Rating for “The Monuments Men:” C+

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.

“The Monuments Men” is playing across Columbus, including at AMC Lennox and Easton. For showtimes, click here.