The Monuments Men


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Monuments Men
"The film becomes a mixture of Dad's Army and The Cockleshell Heroes (without the cockleshells)."

The true story upon which this is based contains incredulity in equal measure with commitment, courage and conviction. At one point Frank Stokes (George Clooney) tells his ragged band of museum directors, curators, art historians and academics, "This mission was never designed to succeed," which is an odd, even baffling, admission in the middle of a fighting war.

Stokes believes (rightly) that the Nazis were stealing vast quantities of art from Jewish homes and galleries throughout Europe and hoarding them in preparation for the glorious opening of a proposed Fuhrer Museum in Germany. He persuades those close to FDR to allow him to "protect what's there and find what's missing." Despite an absence of cultural concern amongst the hawks of Washington, he is given permission.

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He picks a handful of non-combatants who, with the exception of a Frenchman (Jean Dujardin) and a British officer (Hugh Bonneville), prone to alcoholic abuse, a young lad (Dimitri Leovidas) with local knowledge and a serious minded archivist (Matt Damon) from New York's Metropolitan Museum, consist of geriatrics who don't know one end of a rifle from the other.

As a result the film becomes a mixture of Dad's Army and The Cockleshell Heroes (without the cockleshells). How they survived in occupied France for more than five minutes is a mystery. Bill Murray and John Goodman can hardly walk and Bob Balaban behaves like a rabbit in headlights. Damon stays in Paris with Cate Blanchett. Who wouldn't?

How these men achieve their goal of saving thousands of priceless artifacts and paintings is where the incredulity comes in and why the film fails. Without explaining the how, there is nothing left but speculation.

An example of lunacy, wrapped in good intentions, is when Bonneville slips into Bruges, still occupied by the Germans, to protect Michelangelo's Madonna & Child with a pistol. Capt Mainwaring would have had something to say about that.

"Stupid boy!"

Reviewed on: 20 Feb 2014
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The Monuments Men packshot
A Second World War platoon are given the job of rescuing artwork form Nazi thieves.
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Director: George Clooney

Writer: George Clooney, Grant Heslov

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, Dimitri Leonidas

Year: 2014

Runtime: 135 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, Germany


BIFF 2014

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