The Monuments Men **

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I was very much looking forward to “The Monuments Men” and I am flat out shocked at just how much I simply disliked it. I found it to be a disjointed and unfocused mess of a movie that really doesn’t engage it’s subject nearly enough. I had never heard of this story before and I love when a movie sheds light on small pieces of history like this but I came out without about as much knowledge as I went in with.

The cast is impressive but they didn’t seem gel together properly. It felt like each character was in their own movie. George Clooney, who also writes and directs, plays Frank Stokes, who puts a team of art historians, museum curators, and architects in an attempt to recover stolen art and relics from the Nazi’s in World War II. His team consists of characters played by Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, and Bob Balaban. Murray in particular seems like he is operating in a totally different genre of film.

The men are put through basic training, which they do not take seriously, and then are dropped in to the war behind the Allies. This is where the film starts to meander a bit as the boys attempt to find transportation as well as some backup. They eventually split up with different missions. Damon is sent to Paris to connect with a French curator played by Cate Blanchett, who as forced by the Nazi’s to assist in the theft of art for a proposed Nazi museum. They hint at a possible romance that never really goes anywhere.

Balaban and Murray go looking for a specific set of panel art stolen from a cathedral. They get sidetracked by a Nazi soldier who seems to have been cut off from his unit and is wandering alone in the woods. There is a silent stand off that wastes a few minutes of screen time and again doesn’t really go anywhere. Eventually they catch up to a Nazi general who is hiding art on a French farm.

Goodman and Dujardin’s task was not really made very clear but they do end up in a stand off with a teenage sniper and then in the middle of an unnamed battle between the Allies and the Nazis.

Eventually the group is reunited in an attempt to finish the job. This is basically the last third of the movie, which finally gets the plot moving along and offers some interesting historical tidbits.

I am not too sure what I was expecting with this movie. I got a sort of heist movie vibe set during the second World War. By no means do I need a movie set during that horrific period to be fun but it should at least be interesting and engaging. It is almost like Clooney got too sidetracked with melodrama from the characters. The problem is that I didn’t know them well enough to get caught up in their personal issues. I found myself wanting them to start searching for stolen art.

“The Monuments Men” is a movie that really has me baffled. The only things I truly learned were at the beginning and the end when Clooney’s character is giving lectures to government officials. Everything in between seemed too relaxed. There isn’t really a sense of urgency until the end of the film.

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