WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
Based off the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel, George Clooney directs, writes, and stars in The Monuments Men. The film follows a World War II Allied squad made up of seven museum directors, curators, and art historians played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, and Hugh Bonneville. They are tasked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to go into the European front during the final days of the war. Their mission: to rescue priceless works of art stolen by the Nazis for Hitler’s private museum, recover them from being damaged or destroyed, and return them back to their owners.
Much like Bryan Singer’s Valkyrie (2008), The Monuments Men is a story about lesser known events in World War II that are not covered in depth within modern history texts. Unlike Valkyrie, which had a serious tone and contained many suspenseful moments, The Monuments Men takes a lighter, more adventurous approach.
The film’s arching structure is a bit uneven at times, and is noticeable the first half of the movie. There are many humorous one-liners that provide escape from the dark setting of a war-torn Europe and at times it feels more in line with historical fiction, much like Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. However, the film does focus on the serious aspect of the war, such as the effects of battle and death on the Monuments Men squad. What starts as a mission for protecting art becomes more personal as they lose members of their squad and learn the impact of the Jewish Holocaust.
Unlike a majority of Clooney’s work, this film is not Oscar worthy. However, don’t let that prevent you from enjoying the film. Take any notion of it being a potential Academy Award winner and throw it out the window. While it’s not your typical World War II movie such as Saving Private Ryan, The Monuments Men is an enjoyable film with a good cast, funny moments, and entertaining story.
If you like the film, check out the story of the real Monuments Men and find out why this little known squad was important for our modern history.
Grade: 3.5 out of 5