The Monuments Men director George Clooney has a certain feel to his movies. Whether reminding us of the costs of witch hunts of personal destruction in Good Night and Good Luck, the evils of corruption that can be found in the pursuit of power in The Ides of March or simply the strength in sticking to one’s convictions in Leatherheads… there is always a firm voice to a George Clooney film.
That is no clearer than in The Monuments Men. And what is impressive is that given how the film’s scope is much bigger -- a previously unknown battle fought in the European theater of World War II -- it shows how far Clooney has come as a filmmaker.
Clooney also stars and he has some serious company for the film based on the true story, co-written by Clooney and Grant Heslov. The Monuments Men cast consists of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin and Hugh Bonneville. And each tackles their role as if it was them carrying the movie.
But, they are part of a true ensemble of players portraying a group of individuals joined by the mission of reclaiming all the priceless art that Hitler and the Nazis have stolen. They are not only to get it back to their rightful owners, but the clock is ticking because as it becomes clear that Germany is losing, the Nazis have vowed to destroy it all.
The film begins -- as teased in The Monuments Men trailer -- with Clooney’s Frank Stokes imploring the president to allow him to put together a team to perform the aforementioned mission. And in that opening monologue, Clooney has presented the power as to why this story is so important.
The Nazis were not just waging war on Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the French or the British or anyone else for that matter. They wanted to wipe Western culture off the map and remove it from history. You can murder a people, rob them off their possessions… but if you destroy their artifacts, their culture can be completely extinguished.
It is within that framework that the movie gets going. And the performances by Clooney and his cast are stellar.
Of particular strength is the bond and screen power emitted by Damon and Blanchett. The latter portrays a French art museum curator who was forced to work for the Nazis as they plundered tens of thousands of pieces of art. With the threat of her being killed, she kept track of where the art was going, and when Damon and The Monuments Men show up, she can be their best ally. But, after going through what she has gone through, Damon must earn her trust and it is their back and forth that provides much of the emotional power of the film as a whole.
Meanwhile, Clooney, Balaban, Dujardin, Bonneville and Murray are scouring the continent for any kind of clue as to where the art has gone. The two stories will collide in the most satisfying, thrilling, emotionally powerful and astonishingly true conclusion that Hollywood could never write.
Our The Monuments Men review finds that Clooney and Heslov have penned a screenplay that perfectly pays tribute to the ultimate sacrifice those warrior scholars made. And Clooney and his cast have delivered a film that documents what a culture-saving role The Monuments Men played in human history.
In the mood for another all-star cast World War II tale, why not watch Inglourious Basterds online!