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MOVIE REVIEW: Monuments Men

| 20 March 2014 | Reply

MOVIE REVIEW: Monuments Men
Directed by George Clooney
Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Monuments Men movie poster

As Hitler and the Allies laid waste to each other, Europe’s people and infrastructure suffered immense losses, including, inevitably, irreplaceable works of art.

Based on the true, but little known, story of a group of ageing museum curators and art history teachers who were enlisted into the army to recover as many works of art as possible and return them to their owners, George Clooney’s latest pet project (adapted from Robert M Edsel’s best seller of the same name, subtitled ‘Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves & The Greatest Tresure Hunt In History’) adds to his impressive canon of work documenting truly interesting stories that the major studios would otherwise never touch.

“With this many people dying, who cares about art? But they’re wrong… if you destroy their achievements & their history, they’re just ash.”

It’s a pivotal quote in the film that encapsulates the mission and motivation of this troupe of academics who became soldiers to protect what they held dearest – classic art, and what that meant to our civilisation. To further quote the film, “our job is to protect art – so that after this war, there is some.”

Blanchett wonderfully plays Clair Simond, an unsung French hero who gave so much of her life for her love of art, and ultimately helped save an untold number of pieces from destruction, while the boys play the members of the team of experts – The Monuments Men – with just a touch too much Oceans Eleven mateyness, but effectively none-the-less.

Clooney succeeds at putting a human face on an inhuman time – what the Nazis couldn’t plunder, they destroyed rather than leave for the victors. It’s this blatant disregard for human history – art which provided a cultural foundation for our very society and would have inspired generations to come – that reminds us why we still, even today, need to stand up to authority disconnected from its humanity and lost in it’s own self-importance.

Despite the horrors depicted in the film, it’s important to remember that the German people weren’t the bad guys, any more than West Australians are all out there in dinghys attempting shark genocide. Governments make policies to suit their own greedy agendas and shame us all with their bad choices. With luck, movies like this can remind everyone that we don’t have to put up with our elected officials’ corruption and pillaging on any level. Our governments should all exist to serve not only its citizens, but all our future generations.

Monuments Men is far from perfect though. It errs towards buddy movie in parts, as the team splinters into pairs chasing individual leads back and forth before reuniting later on. At times it chops back and forth between dramatic, humorous and sad a little too eagerly – whilst that may be the reality of war, it makes it hard going to know where the movie wants to take it’s own stand, but at its heart is a story that should be seen not only to remind us of what we, as a people, nearly lost forever, but also to open our eyes to what is happening now, and keep us alert to abuses of power all around us every day.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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