George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, the real-life story of an impropable World War II platoon tasked with rescuing art from Hitler’s forces, is his weakest outing by far. The movie’s a throwback to the World War II capers of old, simpler films about a tough crew on a mission, pictures more focused on adventure than the realities of war. The Monuments Men‘s problem is that the movie doesn’t commit to this tone, but wants to be an important film about a historical operation too, and even a drama or a comedy at times. All these pieces never come together, making The Monuments Men an overwrought mess.
While Clooney’s previous films had star power, this one leans on it. The cast is great (Clooney! Damon! Blanchett! Murray!), but none of the actors have anything interesting to do. This isn’t a film about characters, but a preachy picture about a mission with historical importance. The protagonists have no depth, no history and, frankly, aren’t interesting: we never learn who these people are apart from their professions, apart from what they’re supposed to do. A genre trope sees the team being assembled at the start of the film and usually the characters are introduced in a scene that tells the audience something about their personality, something specific to make you like or dislike them. But The Monuments Men just shows you the group being put together without telling you anything about who these characters are. “Here they are, that’s it.” It’s very telling.
Well, at least the mission’s interesting and exciting, right? Well, no. There’s no tension whatsoever, because there’s never a sense of urgency to the mission. Everyone jokes about, smiles all the time, wears cool sunglasses because that’s what archivists on an important WWII mission do, apparently. It’s more like you’re watching a group of people having fun on their holiday, than you’re watching a team on a dangerous undertaking. So… then at least the movie’s fun? Again, no. At every turn the Clooney character addresses his men, or whoever wants to listen, to talk about how important the mission to save the art is, how destroying the art is equal to taking away people’s achievements and history. The Monuments Men keeps hitting you over the head with this message, which gets repetitive very fast and sucks the fun right out of the proceedings. Add a forced and malfunctioning romantic subplot, a slew of painfully unfunny lines, entire conversations with the sole purpose of informing the audience, tacky sets, and you’re getting an idea of how sloppy and boring this movie actually is.
The Monuments Men is dull and unfocused. However interesting a real-life mission is, a movie needs to do more than provide its audience with a history lesson. This one fails to do so. 4/10