Tell ’em, Nic! Nothing’s more important than stealing the Declaration of Independence and they know it!
During the final, winding-days of WWII, art-historian (George Clooney) is gripped with a task on his hands: Assemble a group of seven, fellow art-groupies, go through basic training, and find a way to gather and collect all of the ancient pieces of art, sculpture and paintings that the Nazis have apparently been hiding during the war. At first, once the men get taken into behind enemy lines in Germany, they realize that this whole mission may be a ball – one soldier (Matt Damon), comes close to even getting laid by a stern, but somehow stunningly hot French-gal (Cate Blanchett). But sooner than later, things begin to take a turn for the worse once the Nazis begin to see themselves getting more and more desperate as the days go by, therefore, having Hitler himself order that all art be destroyed, in hopes that it won’t reach their rightful, original owners. Smart idea on old Adolf’s part, but he soon realizes that he is no match for the Ocean‘s crew! With the exception of Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, and even Rob Reiner. Yep, none of them are here, but at least we got Bob Balaban to spice things up, right?
George Clooney, the actor, is known to be a class-act that you can always count on to deliver, no matter what piece of material he may be in. He’s always got that cool-look, that charm, that wit and that swiftness to him that makes every dude in the theater lobby want to be him and discover his make-up team’s contact info; whereas he makes every lady swoon for the day that she may just be able to get snatched up into good old George’s hands. And ladies, if you’re less than two times his age, you run a pretty good chance at being his next-in-line!
But I digress….
While George Clooney, the actor, may be somebody we can trust and rely on to give great work, George Clooney, the director, isn’t always someone we can count on. Most of the time, Clooney seems to not only do stuff that only seems to interest himself and his buddies, but he more often than not, drops the ball on what could have been something cool and interesting. The Ides of March, for the most part, just relied so heavily on the performances from its stacked-cast, that I almost forgot Clooney even directed it, or even had a story written-out for it; Leatherheads didn’t have much of a chance of being anything spectacular, but at least he tried with it; Good Night, And Good Luck will always seem to be his crowning-jewel where everything he sets out to do, he nails to near-perfection; and then of course, we have his debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind that seemed to only get away with the fact that it had rich source-material to begin with, despite Clooney finding a way to make a story about a game-show-host-turned-CIA-agent somewhat depressing and rather boring.
So yeah, as you can tell, I know a thing or two about Clooney’s track-record as director and most of the time, it doesn’t always pan-out so well. That’s why I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt, even despite it being pushed-back from its original, Christmas Day release-slot (apparently due to “special-effects problems“). However though, once again, I digress…
Anyway, what I am trying to get at here is that while Clooney may not always be consistent as a director, he’s always the kind of guy that interests me with anything that he touches his palms with, solely because it’s him, and he knows quality. Here, on the other hand, we have a movie that definitely seems like the type of movie he feels strong and passionate about, yet, never really seems to let come-off of the ground. But you’d never know if he felt any passion or love for this true-life story of heroism, and men fighting for what they truly believed in, because we never get the right details we should to fully believe in these characters, this story or anything else that happens. Yeah, I know that all of this is true, but watching this movie, you’d still never get a full clue as to what is happening, why, how and who was involved. For all I know, the actual, real-life soldiers who were involved with this mission could have been a rusty crew of old geezers that loved to make jokes while they were standing on deadly land-mines, hung-out and smoked cigs with Nazi soldiers wanting to kill them, and even crack some funny-ones while half of Russia’s army comes storming after them, wanting their heads, as well as the various paintings they can’t seem to get enough of.
But what’s so surprising to me about this movie, is that it never seems like Clooney knows that he’s messing-up by not giving us any reason to care for these people, their mission or the heart and soul they shed for these pieces of art; it’s almost as if showing us that they were willing to risk their lives for these paintings was already enough assurance that they do wholly, and fully care about these paintings. However though, it doesn’t work and it should have. Even if Clooney decided to give us maybe one or two minutes dedicated to these guys being wrangled-up and ready for the mission, it would have made a huge difference – we would have not only cared for these dudes, but cared about the mission they were setting-upon as well. Also, probably would have given this movie more of a drastic-feel to it, especially once these guys started getting perishing.
Somehow though, as much as I may rag on this movie, as well as what Clooney does as a director, I was able and more than willing to just let myself have fun and enjoy the old-style, nostalgic kind of war-flick that George himself was so obviously going for. Personally, I don’t think he hits all of the right notes, but if there was ever a war flick that I could sit-down and watch with my whole family, even my much-younger cousins, it’s this one. That’s not saying it’s great or anything, and surely doesn’t get past the fact that movie itself has its fair-share of faults and problems, but it definitely kept me entertained throughout most of the movie.
Once again, I stress the fact that it wasn’t perfect, but, if you have nothing else better to do for your Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or what have you, evening, then I can’t say this would be a terrible. There’s definitely plenty of other options to go and check-out before this, but if grand-mom and grand-pop want to spend some “quality time”, I’d say point their head in this movie’s direction, and you’ll definitely be promised a spot in the will. Sounds harsh, but I’m just saying.
Love you G-Mom and G-Pops!
Most of where my enjoyment with this movie came from was just through the cast and how, despite how thinly-written most of their material may have been, they still prevailed and kept me smiling. Like I stressed before, Clooney the actor is fine and is charming enough to make you see past the obvious-faults that this role only serves him to break-out into soliloquies every once and awhile about how men should always stand-up for what they believe in, no matter how looked-down upon it may be from others; Matt Damon is entertaining enough to watch as his second-in-command, James Granger, who is gone for quite some time and separated from the rest of the action, but is still somehow able to make his story the least-bit interesting, just by showing up and smiling (because we all know, once Matt Damon smiles, we all gotta smile!); and Cate Blanchett somehow makes a thankless-role as a French-spy, somewhat memorable by making her out to be a bit of a weirdo that also longs for a connection. Then again, maybe I’m just reaching.
As for the rest of the cast, they’re fine, but it’s obvious they aren’t doing anything exceptional. Bill Murray is always Bill Murray in anything he does, but he’s slightly less charming and “Bill Murray-ish” than he usually is, and less of that has to do with him as a performer, and more with just how the script does not use him; in fact, I’d say that they use Bob Balaban a bit more in the sense that they give him a scene where he gets to be somewhat “bad-ass”, as you’ve never seen him before (and trust me, you sure as hell haven’t!); John Goodman is his usual lovable, big-hearted, always cheery-self that also happens to be a soldier named “Walter“; Hugh Bonneville is fine as one of a British soldier who puts his life-on-the-line, as does everybody else, but gets to show his bravery in a slightly-memorable way; and Jean Dujardin, despite having an interesting role in Wolf of Wall Street, still feels like a previous Oscar-winner gone to a bit of a waste by now, however, I hope the tide turns around for him sooner than later. Because surely, we wouldn’t want another Roberto Benigni on our hands, now would we?
Consensus: Another misstep in Clooney’s directorial-catalog, the Monuments Men takes what could have been a very thrilling, exciting and emotional war-tale, and makes it uneven, poorly-developed and only entertaining in its bits and pieces, which is mostly thanks to all of the effort the cast puts into it.
6 / 10 = Rental!!