In the last months of World War II, the German army are ordered to destroy every piece of art they have looted. In a race against time, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt requests a platoon to rescue these works of art before it is too late. But this group have no experience of weapons and tactics, and soon receive a rude awakening when they are dropped behind enemy lines.
Based on the true story of a treasure hunt during World War II, who better to create a group of movie-stars and make an ensemble cast film than George Clooney of course. So it looked a safe better that Georgie Boy could pull off another cool gang film that centred around obtaining objects that didn’t belong to them (there is a theme here to his Oceans trilogy).
This time he has roped in a bunch of stars that are not going to be running, jumping and cavorting with young ladies, instead it’s a group of actors from around the globe that all offer something unique to proceedings. All of them are likable in their roles and all seem to be having fun during the film.
Clooney’s Frank Stokes is charismatic and instantly affable, not the hardnosed bruiser of commanders you normally see. Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin and Hugh Bonneville all are in enjoyable roles that work in terms of grouping a multi-cultured gang. Each receives enough screen-time to ensure we see what is behind their thoughts and why they are on this crazy treasure trail.
However, the greatest sideshow is the popping and locking duo of Bill Murray and Bob Balaban. They are hilarious from start to finish… it’s as if no script had been written for these two and instead they’ve just improvised all their lines. They bicker and fight like Statler and Waldorf do, it’s a joy to watch and we actually wanted to see more of them.
With each actor fulfilling their character traits well, it’s left to the actual story to take us in. Sadly this is where it falls down. Whilst it’s an interesting story when reading about it, it doesn’t make the transition to screen all too well. It’s a very one dimensional affair with little substance apart from the paintings.
The whole set up takes up most of the film, leaving little room afterwards to allow for character development. Lacking serious integrity when needed is one major drawback here. Too often it resorts to clichéd humour to move around a key moment in the film. Another quibble is that we never get a sense of the group as a unit; they are off in their own little duos too quickly, stopping us from forming a bond with all of them together.
The Monuments Men should be a highly enjoyable romp about a fascinating story. Sadly it gets let down by a script that lacks any killer punches and as such means the ensemble gang do little more than mess around with each other for the entire film. It’s entertaining but not enough.