The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men - trailer
The Monuments Men
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Director: George Clooney
Cert: 12A
Genre: Drama
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin
Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins

It can't count as any great recommendation to admit that this torpid drama from George Clooney works as an effective advertisement for the documentary that will, no doubt, flesh out the expanded DVD.

The grey fox has happened upon an interesting story: the adventures of those academics and curators who, in the closing days of the second World War, sought to rescue great artworks looted by the Nazis. Unfortunately, he has singularly failed to make a worthwhile drama from the history. The Monuments Men is packed full of the sort of unlikely incidents – lunch in a humble room unexpectedly decorated with Rembrandts, for instance – that, paradoxically, are no more believable for being founded on fact.

What we have here is a milksop variation on The Dirty Dozen . Rather than rounding up hard men with unpredictable tempers, Lt Frank Stokes (George in relaxed head-on-side mode), seeks out solid experts who can spot a Botticelli at 50 yards. He has persuaded some decent actors to take part, but none of them has anything you could call a character. Matt Damon plays the one played by Matt Damon. John Goodman plays the one played by John Goodman. Bill Murray turns a nondescript role into an archetypal Bill Murray part. As a French art expert, Cate Blanchett seems bent on rehabilitating the tarnished reputation of 'Allo 'Allo .

Given the personnel, we shouldn't need to say that it's all carried off with genial efficiency. Alexandre Desplat's score is absolutely lovely. Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, an Oscar nominee for Nebraska , brings cosy warmth to the period recreations. Clooney follows the rules and ensures that the least famous actors are the first to die.


Unfortunately, The Monuments Men falls short in all its supposed aims. The efforts to address the significance of art in an arena of human suffering are, at best, half-hearted, and the clunky attempt to inject the story with urgency – we must get the Michelangelo before the pesky Russians arrive – feels unforgivably forced.

Now we know why the film’s release was kicked back from Oscar season.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist