Movie casts and be deceptive…
And with an all star assemblage that includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Cate Blanchett one would think The Monuments Men would be loaded with action-adventure and plenty of boy-toy funny one liners and zingers.
Sort of like an OCEAN’S 11 set near the end of World War II in Germany maybe.
However, you’d be wrong.
The setting and time frame for THE MONUMENTS MEN certainly is correct but screenwriter, co-producer, director and star George Clooney set out to create a historical tribute to events which barely registered a blip on the total scope of the war.
This is the semi-fictionalized account based on real events that went down in 1944 and 1945 when a band of colorful art-related American professionals set out to create the ultimate treasure hunt in order to rescue the world’s greatest collection of artworks which had been looted by the Nazis.
But when he realized that it was not to be he ordered a lot of the masterpieces to be destroyed by the SS. We’re talking about irreplaceable works like Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child and Jan Van Eyck‘s spectacular altar piece—thousands of the world’s great art treasures.
“It was the greatest theft in history” according to Robert Edsel’s novel ‘The Monuments Men–Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves—The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History’ on which the film is based.
But not so fast…
This small allied platoon of museum directors and curators first had to convince then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the importance of their noble mission.
The task fell on art historian Frank Stokes (played by Clooney), who then rounded up his over-the-hill gang to achieve the impossible.
But the Nazis were not the only roadblock faced by the American art commandos. A lot of the looted riches were stored in salt mines located within German territory which would soon be turned over to our then Soviet allies. And the Ruskies wanted those captured stolen goods as well.
The only difference being, the Americans wanted to turn the stolen articles back to their original owners. The Russians had other plans. They considered the masterpieces as compensation, spoils of war.
Net result: a search and recover mission against the clock in the greatest treasure hunt in all of history.
And classic art works weren’t ALL our heroes found…
It’s a fascinating story that has finally made it to the big screen. The only possible fault I see here is in the execution of the project.
American moviegoers today are used to fast moving, hard hitting, balls to the wall war action. But here Mr. Clooney takes a different tact. Call it a retro-war movie approach.
The film has the feel and tone of a war story produced in the 50’s or 60’s—which is not a bad thing, but I question whether younger audiences today will really appreciate it.
That said, the primarily filmed in Germany THE MONUMENTS MEN is definitely worth a trip to the movies. I’m giving the daring rescue mission a B-
(Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Olathe)
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