UK Release: 14TH February 2014
The George Clooney directed ‘THE MONUMENTS MEN’, is a traditional yarn war film Clooney’s general getting a group of troops together and take back paintings from Hitler personal treasure trove. Clooney as a director has been known for making films which usually are not made in this day and age. Political thriller ‘The Idles of March’ springs to mind here. Evoking memories of ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ he assembles another top notch cast including Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett. Full of wiz-bang pulp action and a clear sense of who is good and bad – this homage to old school yarn war films feels mostly muddled.
The thing is tonally the film is all over the shop. For a old-school yarn war film you need a mix of threat while balancing that out with humour between the larger than life characters. I think the issue here is that there is no real sense of threat, there is no real antagonist other then Hitler. In films like this, while the good-guy character might not ever show it, there was a psychical threat and antagonist to fight against. This no sense of threats comes to play when the team of troops just stroll onto Normandy beach a week after the legendary dogfight. Its particularly jarring when then the film tries to add drama about the horrors of war, making you feel like maybe some of these dramatic beats should belong into another, more series war film then the yarn ones which Clooney is going for. This tone also becomes a issue with the cast as well. To me Clooney looks like the only one who would fit into a old film like this, with his very classic Hollywood leading man look, but even with the visual eye he just doesn’t ‘feel’ right. This feel could be more down the fact you don’t really care for the characters cause and care more so of that of Cate Blanchett’s character, who has a real sense of drive and character development. If only the film was more like the score by Alexandre Desplat, which seems to capture the spirit of something with John Wayne in.
There is beats I do like. I do like the idea its keeps the Nazi’s and German’s separate, I also like the idea to keep it morally in balance they have a young German troop (Dimitri Leonidas) as part of his crew. Clooney as a director isn’t bad, there is certainly a ‘’all – American’’ style of direction employed here which is no bad thing, and the general idea and story this is based on (however just as the film shows it isn’t a heist story, even if the film’s poster says it is) does have a good marriage with a old fashioned rip-roaring war yarn. It is unfortunate he can’t tonally decide how to get it achieve that. I also like the idea that it’s about trying to preserve cultural heritage as well – but all these elements and ideas just don’t mix. Maybe if he did this as a weekly teatime TV show might have been more appropriate as the episodic form of storytelling here might have worked.