George Clooney's fifth directorial effort, "The Monuments Men," had all the potential to be an instant classic, but fell short.
First there is the all-star cast; the film stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett.
Then there is the plot. Based on a true story and book by Robert M. Edsel, Clooney leads a platoon of seven museum directors, architects, curators and art historians into Nazi-controlled Europe with the task of finding and protecting artistic masterpieces and returning them to their owners.
And finally, we again get to witness the demise of the most heinous villain of all time, Hitler.
Unfortunately, my excitement peaked in the parking lot, as this movie never established an identity and failed to create an emotional attachment towards the characters or storyline.
The first 45 minutes is essentially an excessively long montage, passively introducing the characters while faintly addressing their mission. The actors seemingly become soldiers overnight and their willingness to stand and fight is only assumed. Damon relies heavily on his reputation, simulating chemistry with Blanchett and at times completely phoning in his performance. The full cast is rarely on screen together or even involved in the same storyline as the crew splits up to cover more ground. The movie consistently bounced from scenario to scenario, lacking structure and making it increasingly difficult to follow. Several pointless scenes filled with tawdry speeches and forced sentiment contributed nothing to the plot and left me waiting for the action to begin.
One bright spot was the comedic relationship between Murray and Balaban. Scenes included non-verbally convincing a young German soldier to put down his weapon, a dental incident with homemade beef jerky, and a hysterical run-in with fabricated Nazi leader, Viktor Stahl. Blanchett delivers a solid performance as the only character with an emotional connection to the artwork.
When the team eventually convened, the camaraderie was obviously insincere. They were able to navigate their way through Europe without guidance, the explanations for how they were solving the puzzle left vague–and in some cases non-existent–and the ending was extremely anti-climatic and predictable.
There was never a moment when the cinematography, stood out and the same can be said for the soundtrack, as it was just a series of emotional piano riffs that had the feel of an inspirational sports film. The wardrobe and scenery both produced an accurate feeling for the era, but that is what we have come to expect from movies with an 80 million dollar budget.
The amount of art that was stolen and the 5 million pieces that were recovered deserve our respect. For those interested in World War II and its untold stories, this movie offers rich history, but don't expect to be blown away. In the end, "The Monuments Men" was a monumental dud.