The Monuments Men

You can see what George Clooney was trying to do with The Monuments Men. On paper it looks like a modern day Kelly’s Heroes, or some other war caper movie from the 1970s featuring an unconventional cast made up of normally serious actors, bankable stars, a couple of non-Americans – to pay lip service to the other nations who were involved in defeating the Nazis – and a few comic players for light relief. Joining Clooney here are Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin and Hugh Bonneville, and their collective job as part of the Allied Forces’ Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program is to locate all of the precious artwork the Germans looted during the Second World War and locate it before the retreating, nearly-defeated enemy soldiers torch the lot. There was a chance to create an interesting story, here, and Clooney has evidently tried to make something different to the norm, but it all feels so flat and dreary and there’s very little drama. The decision to make a couple of the characters oddly fixated with just one artwork, as if to inject the narrative with some purpose, is a total mis-step. And just look at the charismatic figures within that cast! Not one of them comes away with any credit, though it’s hard to blame them individually; they’re all working with a turgid, dull screenplay. Balaban and Murray draw the shortest straws as they should be the most entertaining; they share lots of screen time and, bizarrely, when they appear it’s so turgid you feel like you’re watching in slow motion. A pity. (*½)