The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men

  • Despite the talented people involved, The Monuments Men is a mostly ineffective effort that feels hollow, no matter its weighty subject matter.
  • The central problem is characterization. There are too many characters, so none of them are well developed. We do not understand or care about any of these people, which means we do not feel their struggle or pain.
  • The plot is also problematic, insofar as it doesn’t comfortably settle into a rhythm. At times it feels like a mystery procedural, at other times a character-centric drama, and sometimes a plot-driven thriller.
  • There are also a few attempts at humor, almost all of which fall flat.
  • Even the ensemble cast struggles to redeem itself. George Clooney (Frank Stokes), Matt Damon (James Granger), Bill Murray (Richard Campbell), Jean Dujardin (Jean Claude Clermont), Bob Balaban (Preston Savitz) and Hugh Bonneville (Donald Jeffries) are all comfortable and charismatic, as they are in every performance, but none of them find or play a character. They are all versions of their own public personas.
  • Only John Goodman (Walter Garfield) and Cate Blanchett (Claire Simone) impress, but both have such limited screen time and emotional impact that neither registers.
  • Director George Clooney makes some interesting choices, as when he uses voice-over and in how he frames several shots, but much of the blame must rest with him. If a director is responsible for a project’s overall vision, then The Monuments Men’s fails, if only because this picture doesn’t have one.
  • Yet, the movie isn’t a complete failure either. The score compliments events well and sets proper tone.
  • The plot is paced crisply enough that it remains somewhat engaging.
  • Some of the scenes, as when Preston and Richard meet a German soldier or when James steps on a land mine, are genuinely entertaining.
  • All the same, most of The Monuments Men does not equal its few merits.
  • Final Grade: D-

44 thoughts on “The Monuments Men

  1. Thanks for the review. I wasn’t planning to see it anyway, now there is even less reason to change my mind. Clonney will sell this well in foreign markets, when plots and dialogues are usually secondary, cause literally lost in translation!

  2. I really, really like Clooney but he should stick to acting. He makes truly mediocre films, I wasn’t even impressed with Good Night and Good Luck. His best is Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but honestly his last few films are just a waste of talent and time.

  3. Good review. I didn’t hate this movie, but I did realize it was tonally off. However, the cast and crew was able to let me slide by that and just enjoy myself for as long as I could.

  4. Sadly I’ll probably be echoing each one of these issues in my own piece later James. It’s a shame. This had real potential and it’s hard to believe that with so many talented people in front of the camera that this doesn’t take off at all. I think this is the first of Clooney’s directorial efforts that I’ve seen, and I can’t say that I’m impressed. Good review man.

    • Thanks. If this the first, you shouldn’t be impressed. Check out Confessions of a Dangerous Mind – that one is very good.

      And I will read your review once it’s published. πŸ™‚

  5. After reading a few ‘Most Anticipated Movies of 2014’ posts that had Monuments listed I was starting to look forward to this. Disappointed to hear about the characterization considering the cast looks pretty solid to me. Nice review.

    • I was underwhelmed by this trailer, too, so I wasn’t all that anxious to see it. Went to it because of the cast.

      But the cast is the most disappointing element here, I think. Only Blanchett and Goodman even bother to act, really.

  6. I’m so sad that this turned out mediocre. I think I’ll still see it because I’m interested in the art side of things… though from what I hear, that wasn’t represented too well either! How disappointing! Great review though! πŸ™‚

  7. What a disappointment. The trailer didn’t feel me with too much hope but hoped the cast would at least make it memorable. Great actors in small roles and bad characterisation is a real hatred of mine.

  8. I was shocked when bad reviews for this started rolling in. The story sounded interesting, and I thought with all of the talent involved it was sure to be a hit. Whoops. Haha. Nice review, my friend!

  9. Not out here yet so haven’t seen it. Been amazed at all the dire reviews going around given the quality of people involved. Was not all that high on my must see list, don’t think I will even bother now.

  10. What a shame…I was expecting a lot more from this. Obviously, with the talent involved and the themes I was expecting something akin to a period Ocean’s 11…by the looks of things it’s a period Ocean’s 12!

    • He’s fine. Doesn’t do anything real special, but also doesn’t do anything badly. He’s charismatic and compelling on screen, as you’d expect, but his character is essentially undefined.

  11. Oh dear, I did like the look of this but it has been universally slated so it looks like a rental job when it comes out on DVD. Looks like another case of complacent film makers thinking good source material and a great cast is enough without having to worry about making any effort with the script.

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