Genre: Action, Biography, Drama
Directed by: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett
Throughout his factually grounded war story, George Clooney’s Frank Stokes continually asks through melodramatic monologue if art is worth dying for. The irony being, that if people in the future set out to save some of Hollywood’s finest cinematic gems, they would be unlikely to give this monotonously disappointing piece of “art” a second thought.
Stokes is based on George Stout, an American art conservationist who helped lead a team of men in to occupied Europe to save the world’s finest pieces of art from both the Nazis and the Russians. What follows is a surprisingly hollow and frustratingly episodic tale. As the eponymous team eventually break up in to smaller factions, each with their own mission, Clooney and screenwriter Grant Heslov’s inability to find any focus or balance means you begin to loose all interest on this cultural band of brothers.
It’s a shame, as the actors Clooney has managed to gather together should be more than able to hold your interest given the right material. With the likes of Bill Murray and John Goodman among the cast, big laughs should be expected. However, the script barely musters a titter from start to finish; the zingers characters launch at each other persistently fall flat. That said, the cast do try their hardest with the material provided; Cate Blanchett and Matt Damon are notable highlights, bringing a certain gravitas to a suppressed romance sub-plot that, for the most part, feels wildly inconsequential.
As a director, Clooney has developed a remarkable talent for making films that can stir both hearts and minds, but while his determination to tell a story shamefully ignored by many is admirable, his execution leaves much to be desired. The lack of cohesion in tone regularly takes you out of the action, meaning the story never has the effect desired by the filmmaker. The comedy strikes a methodic chord, chiseled in to the script when the story takes a slow turn. The more dramatic elements are embraced with a mawkish tendency that fails to move you; Bill Murray breaking down to a rendition of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ being as emotionally wavering as the singer’s voice.
It certainly looks the part though; Bernhard Henrich’s exquisite set design couples with Phedon Papamichael’s wide-eyed cinematography to capture a vivid encapsulation of war-torn Europe. However, despite a pleasing aesthetic, The Monuments Men is a film that barely manages to capture imagination – taking you on a journey that, despite the subject matter, feels artistically void.