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The Monuments Men

Oftentimes the smaller and seemingly less important tasks are forgotten amidst the death and chaos that is war. It’s easy to do when the main goal is the win at all costs. During the final moments of World War II as Allied forces closed in on Hitler, a small group comprised of art historians took it upon themselves to recover the millions of pieces of artwork that was stolen by the Germans. They called themselves The Monuments Men, and they risked their lives to save priceless pieces of history.

Based on a true story, The Monuments Men follows the least likely soldiers as they stumble across Europe in hopes of finding Hitler’s stolen art collection. George Clooney leads an all-star cast comprising of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, and Bob Balaban. With an average age hovering past 50, these aren’t your average soldiers. It’s a trip through memory lane for the majority of them, and they haven’t aged quite as well as the artwork they’re saving.

The film alternates between scenes of intense drama and light comedy and it can be very conflicting at times. In one scene, Sgt. Richard Campbell (Murray) and Pvt. Preston Savitz (Balaban) are reading their mail during the Christmas Holiday. While Savitz is enjoying the various luxury food items in his package, Campbell receives a record made by his family. It’s heartwarming to hear a cheery Christmas tune sung by his loved ones, but the joy is short-lived as we see a young soldier die in the arms of Lt. Frank Stokes (Clooney) in a different base. There are some intense scenes such as this throughout The Monuments Men, but they’re few and far between.

The majority of their time is spent making jokes about how old and out of shape they are or random filler dialogue. The film is split between various storylines as the group almost immediately breaks apart and goes on separate missions. It’s a lot to take in and can be difficult to follow at times. Campbell and Savitz prove to be the most entertaining of the bunch. Meanwhile, Lt. James Granger (Damon) feels like the odd man out as he travels to Paris where he finds Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), one of the assistants in charge of shipping the stolen artwork. They form this awkward, semi-romantic relationship that feels tacky when compared to the rest of the film.

The Monuments Men tells a decent story about an often overlooked portion of World War II and has a great cast of characters, but unfortunately doesn’t manage to combine it all into something great. Instead, we’re left with a lot of half empty ideas that are left on the cutting room floor.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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