Monday, February 10, 2014

The Monuments Men

Based on the book by Robert M. Edsel, The Monuments Men is the story about a group of men that consists of art experts and historians who become part of a special Allied force in World War II to save works of art that is to be burned by the Nazis. Directed by George Clooney and screenplay by Clooney and Grant Heslov, the film is a World War II adventure in which soldiers team with artists and historians to save works of art with the help of a French woman. Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett. The Monuments Men is an adventurous and fun film from George Clooney.

The film is based on a true story about a group of art historians, curators, and museum directors who take part in a special mission to retrieve pieces of art stolen by the Nazis and return it to its owners. Even as they learn that Adolf Hitler has written a decree to burn the artwork in case of the Nazis’ defeat while the Soviet Union is also trying to get their hands on the artwork before the Allies do that. It’s a premise that is very intriguing in the way it plays a role in history although George Clooney and co-screenwriter Grant Heslov seem unsure in how to tell the story and make it so much. While they create some very interesting characters and maintain that sense of suspense of the mission itself. It seems like Clooney and Heslov want to do something that is funny and touching but also have the story be filled with some adventure and suspense where the result is a script that isn’t sure what it really wants to be.

Clooney’s direction for the film is simple but also ambitious for the story he is trying to tell as much of the film is set in Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium. It’s a film that is quite worldly with some great set pieces and wide shots to play into the locations while also having a sense of intimacy in the way some of the characters interact with each other. There’s also a recurring air of suspense where it plays into the action that these men have to face as they aren’t soldiers but rather men of art. Especially as the film’s second half showcases the kind of sacrifices these men make where it does play into some of the drama where the suspense does intensify once the presence of the Soviets would emerge. Though there isn’t a lot of gun fights in the film, Clooney is still able to keep things going despite the inconsistency in tone for the film. Overall, Clooney crafts a very delightful film about men trying to save art in the final years of World War II.

Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael does fantastic work with the cinematography from its use of lights for much of the film‘s interior and nighttime exterior/interior scenes as well as some scenes in the caves with its use of lighting in order to convey a look that is reminiscent of some of the artwork presented in the film. Editor Stephen Mirrione does nice work with the editing to play into some of the film‘s suspense and action as well as using some unique rhythms for its humor. Production designer James D. Bissell, with set decorator Bernhard Henrich and supervising art director Helen Jarvis, does brilliant work with the set pieces from the look of Hitler‘s plans for his ultimate museum to the caves in Germany and the places in Paris. Costume designer Louise Frogley does terrific work with the costumes from the uniform the men wear to the dresses that the Claire Simone character wears.

Visual effects supervisors Asregadoo Arundi and Dominic Parker does excellent work with the visual effects for some of the visual backdrops that appears in the film. Sound editor Oliver Tarvey does superb work with the sound to play into much of the film‘s action as well as some of its quieter moments. The film’s music by Alexandre Desplat is amazing for its orchestral score where it‘s bombastic at times but also playful with its drum cadences while music supervisor brings in some music of that period for the characters to listen to during the break from the action.

The casting by Jina Jay is marvelous for the ensemble that is created in the film as it features some notable small performances from Holger Handtke as a Nazi colonel who reveres the art that is stolen as well as Justus von Dohnanyi as the Nazi officer Stuhl that Simone worked for as she would help the men find him in order to get the art that was stolen. Dimitri Leonidas is terrific as the German-speaking U.S. soldier Sam Epstein who accompanies Lt. Stokes in the missions as he aids them in the missions while hearing what the Germans have said. Hugh Bonneville is excellent as Major Donald Jeffries as a British art collector who is eager to search for a statue of Madonna that becomes a crucial MacGuffin to the story. Bob Balaban is superb as Pvt. Preston Savitz as an art expert who provides not just some of the film’s best comic moments but also some of the more touching moments in the film. Jean Dujardin is amazing as the French art expert Lt. Jean Claude Clermont who despises Nazis while being a man of wit and charm as he is eager to reclaim the art the Nazis stole from his country.

John Goodman is fantastic as sculpture expert Sgt. Walter Garfield as he also brings some humor to the film while expressing his love for sculptures. Bill Murray is great as the architect Sgt. Richard Campbell as a quick-witted guy who always says funny things while feeling homesick for his country. Cate Blanchett is brilliant as the French Claire Simone as a member of the resistance who spies on the Nazis as she helps Lt. Granger in finding some of the locations of the stolen artwork despite her misgivings over what the Allies want to do with the art. Matt Damon is wonderful as Lt. James Granger as an art expert who travels to France to meet with Simone in order to find the location of the stolen artwork as he brings some nice humor the role. Finally, there’s George Clooney in a stellar performance as Lt. Frank Stokes as the leader of the gang who is eager to retrieve these pieces of arts in the hopes that people will see them again after the war while dealing with the sacrifices made for these dangerous missions.

The Monuments Men is a pretty good film from George Clooney that is armed with a great ensemble cast that includes Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, and Hugh Bonneville. While it doesn’t live up to the ambitions of the story as well as being inconsistent in tone, it is still a film that is worthwhile for those who enjoy World War II stories. In the end, The Monuments Men is a stellar film from George Clooney.

George Clooney Films: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - Good Night, and Good Luck - (Leatherheads) - The Ides of March

© thevoid99 2014


s. said...

I'm gonna see this one for Jean, glad to read he's good in this! I'm not expecting anything great, though, the reviews for this one are quite bad.

thevoid99 said...

Jean gets to have his moments to shine as he shares many of scenes w/ John Goodman. Yet, I would maintain low expectations.

ruth said...

Though the cast is indeed stellar I wouldn't call the film itself the same though. I like Dujardin, Murray and Blanchett the most out of the cast. Oh and Goodman is good as well, but Clooney is nothing special, both in acting and direction here.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-I like George Clooney as an actor and as a director but yeah, this film was a let down considering what they had on paper. It's not a bad film but it had the makings of something really great and falls pretty short though it is an entertaining film.

Unknown said...

Nice review. It does look to be a fun distraction, so I'll probably see this one eventually.

thevoid99 said...

@Bonjour Tristesse-I wouldn't expect much about this film but it is still a fun one. At least it wasn't boring.