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Monuments Men, The


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

Director: George Clooney

It’s a Hollywood tradition that the Americans won WW2 – indeed, if every movie that showcased this particular theme were screened one after the other the resulting celluloid ordeal would probably last longer than WW1 and WW2 combined.

That said, George Clooney has come up with an enjoyable twist with his ‘based on a true story’ saga of a highly unlikely bunch of seven museum directors, curators, and art historians sent into Europe during WW2 to rescue some of the world’s greatest masterpieces stolen by the Nazis to grace the Hitler Museum in Berlin planned by the Fuehrer to celebrate his victory and then return the works of art to their rightful owners. (Those, that is, who survived Hitler’s appalling ethnic cleansing).

(Ironically, the film is an American-German co-production).

Clooney and Grant Heslov’s screenplay (based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter) admittedly takes liberties with the facts. Which is hardly surprising since the real-life story is inevitably episodic, a factor reflected in the film. However, Clooney’s direction mostly makes the most of each episode so that the lack of a narrative spine doesn’t really damage the final film too much.

Casting is good, too.

Clooney, unencumbered by any romantic interest, gives a strong and largely credible performance, most notably in a chilling confrontation with a captured Nazi mass murderer, a scene which (like the equally chilling discovery of a barrelful of gold fillings taken from executed Jews) vividly exposes the horrors of the Holocaust.

Jean Dujardin combines Gallic charm with credibility, Matt Damon (a slightly unlikely painter) has the ‘romantic lead’ of the a married painter dallying with Frenchwoman Cate Blanchett (holding her own well in a predominantly testosterone-driven cast) to find out where the Nazis sent their stolen artworks, Billy Murray is the zany one, John Goodman adds weight, Bob Balaban is impish and uneasy at wearing an army uniform, and television star Hugh Bonneville is the token Brit.

So forget the Dirty Dozen. Ignore the Magnificent Seven. Clooney’s Crusaders demonstrate that here he definitely knows his art from his elbow.

Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Feb 2014