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The Monuments Men (2013)

tomatometer

33

Average Rating: 5.2/10
Reviews Counted: 207
Fresh: 68 | Rotten: 139

Its intentions are noble and its cast is impressive, but neither can compensate for The Monuments Men's stiffly nostalgic tone and curiously slack narrative.

30

Average Rating: 5.8/10
Critic Reviews: 44
Fresh: 13 | Rotten: 31

Its intentions are noble and its cast is impressive, but neither can compensate for The Monuments Men's stiffly nostalgic tone and curiously slack narrative.

audience

50

liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 55,664

My Rating

Movie Info

Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys - seven museum directors, curators, and

PG-13,

Drama, Action & Adventure

George Clooney

May 20, 2014

$77.3M

Sony Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (207) | Top Critics (44) | Fresh (68) | Rotten (139)

The movie does a good job of illustrating why protecting art from the Nazi scourge was important but it's far less effective fleshing out the personalities of the people who did the protecting.

February 9, 2014 Full Review Source: ReelViews
ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A frustratingly flat film that drifts from moment to moment with a curious lack of urgency and an overbearing sense of self-importance.

February 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Film.com
Film.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If The Monuments Men never overcomes its unwieldy structure and unevenness of tone, the film still manages to make a profound, even subtle point: that Hitler's darkest impulses and annihilating reach extended from human beings to history itself.

February 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is a sturdy, old-school, big-scale Greatest Generation war movie. It's great escapism.

February 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Think of them as Inglorious Art Historians. Only this PG-13 entertainment has little of the edge, however complicated, of Quentin Tarantino's 2009 Holocaust revenge flick.

February 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's like an over-the-hill gang variant on The Dirty Dozen, except not as much fun as that sounds.

February 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Monuments Men is a collection of beautiful, individual cinematic moments, instead of the defining tapestry of an incredible story.

April 4, 2014 Full Review Source: 2UE That Movie Show
2UE That Movie Show

The result is uneven and sluggish, with a collection of thinly sketched characters and trumped-up suspense.

March 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Cinemalogue.com
Cinemalogue.com

It's... a movie where the star power of an elite ensemble cast has been dimmed for the greater good, an interesting-but-dull true story has been embellished for the lesser good

March 18, 2014 Full Review Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Herald Sun (Australia)

Flat and expressionless, like a punctured tyre that gets you to your destination yet denies you the pleasant diversion along the way.

March 16, 2014 Full Review Source: Concrete Playground
Concrete Playground

IT'S disappointing that such a great cast and a wonderful fact-based men-on-a-mission story falls short of its potential.

March 15, 2014 Full Review Source: The Standard

Directing his fifth film, George Clooney uses the intriguing, fact-based premise to mount a surprisingly light-hearted romp across the battlefield as a gang of art experts...head for the front in search of art. It's sort of like Ocean's Eleven Go to War.

March 15, 2014 Full Review Source: 3AW

George Clooney's worst film to date, this is a congenial and inert story about irritatingly casual Americans saving Western Civilisation from the Nazis.

March 11, 2014 Full Review Source: Screenwize
Screenwize

Clooney and Heslov fail to settle on a tone, or at least tie the contrasting moods together. There are daring feats and moments of tragic loss, bursts of sentiment and droll back and forth between Murray and Balaban's characters.

March 11, 2014 Full Review Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald

Clooney has too much reverence for his story, and as a result he does it about the biggest disservice possible: he makes it boring.

March 11, 2014 Full Review Source: The Vine
The Vine

For a film so boastful about preserving history, it seems all too content to commercialise its own story.

March 11, 2014 Full Review Source: Impulse Gamer
Impulse Gamer

While it's an interesting tale, the screenplay does feel like it has too many characters and too many subplots.

March 11, 2014 Full Review Source: ABC Radio Brisbane
ABC Radio Brisbane

One day we'll discover George Clooney is actually a long-forgotten screen idol from Hollywood's golden age who became unstuck from time, and all of this will make total sense.

March 10, 2014 Full Review Source: Quickflix
Quickflix

Sometimes perfunctory, often hitting false notes, the film lacks the punch of its story

March 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

It's a story with scale, texture and layers and whatever it lacks in grit and tension (required for a story based on fact) is compensated by chutzpah

March 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

The plot is not tight enough and there is no great sense of passion or urgency and there is a good bit of schmaltz. Overall, it's watchable, but not especially good.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Irish Independent
Irish Independent

Part 'Hogan's Heroes' and part 'Saving Private Ryan,' 'The Monuments Men' shifts its tone too often to tell a consistent tale.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Quad City Times (Davenport, IA)
Quad City Times (Davenport, IA)

In a nutshell it feels like a forgery, and not a particularly artful one.

February 16, 2014 Full Review Source: Scotsman
Scotsman

The tonal uncertainty undermines complete engagement, taking the edge off both the drama and the comedy, leaving the film floundering episodically in no-man's-land.

February 16, 2014 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Is The Monuments Men a disappointment? Yes, it is, but it isn't a crashing disappointment.

February 15, 2014 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

The screenplay is childlike and overly reverential. It's almost as if Clooney is afraid he's going to insult someone by getting a few laughs out of a serious subject.

February 14, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Chambers
Movie Chambers

Audience Reviews for The Monuments Men

Ever since the credit crunch broke six years ago, there have been clarion calls from the artistic community in Britain about the need to preserve funding for the arts. Social media has been awash in recent times with 'I Value The Arts' twibbons and Winston Churchill's widely misquoted line. Contrary to popular belief, he did not say "then what are we fighting for?" when asked to cut the arts to support the war, but instead advised that paintings and other priceless works should be buried in caves.

All of which brings us to The Monuments Men, a film set in World War II in which the arts are no longer seen as a priority. The film repeatedly proclaims the importance of preserving and celebrating Western art and culture, arguing like contemporary campaigners that they reflect our humanity, our creativity and our capacity for good. Ultimately the film is a flimsy, stuffy affair with none of the current campaigns' dynamism, but it is still enjoyable enough to pass the time.

The big problem facing The Monuments Men, as so often in war dramas, is one of tone. It can't decide whether it wants to be a properly dramatic war film like A Bridge Too Far, full of good, honest men doing good, honest things, or a caper film like Ocean's Eleven or to some extent Inglourious Basterds, playing faster and looser with the truth. Only Soldier of Orange manages to somehow balance the two, and this falls far short of Paul Verhoeven's film.

Much of the explanation for this lies with the director; in so many ways, George Clooney is no Paul Verhoeven. He's not a bad director, insofar as he knows how to assemble a shot and light a scene in an appealing way. And there's no denying the admirable intentions behind his work, as previously demonstrated in Good Night and Good Luck. The problem is that his passion for an idea or subject matter comes across in a heavy-handed way.

Clooney's biggest fault as a director is constantly drawing attention to the message he is delivering, rather than letting the drama speak for itself. In Good Night and Good Luck, he did this by including stock footage of the real Joseph McCarthy ranting about communism. If Clooney were so confident that his film would work as a paean to 'proper' journalism and common sense, he would not have felt the need to have this footage of McCarthy to constantly remind us who the bad guy is.

It's much the same story with The Monuments Men, which gives us a compelling thesis and then somewhat squanders it through the kind of didactic scripting that would make Oliver Stone proud. The basic idea is a very interesting one, namely that the artistic values of a culture or nation must not be sacrificed for the sake of short-term political or military gain. But the idea is conveyed less through character development than through characters making speeches about it, with said speeches often interrupting the enjoyable action.

The Monuments Men explores an interesting phase of World War II, namely when it became a question of 'when' Germany would surrender, rather than 'if'. With the goal of their united campaign in sight, the different Allied nations were already looking ahead towards the potential fall-out of the surrender. There was a big race to be the first to reach Berlin, which through a series of unfortunate events eventually led to the Cold War. Arguably military leaders were more ruthless in this period than at any other period during the war, as epitomised by Hitler's own Nero Decree.

Seen through this prism, the film is a document of the nobler side of Man's nature in extremis. While it's sympathetic towards the ends of the Allies, it challenges the means by which Germany is being defeated. Clooney's men are seen to be fighting for a higher cause amongst the short-term barbarism of the field commanders. Matt Damon's character spends much of his time trying to challenge America's image as a careless conqueror, an image that extends from its army to its art collectors.

But again, there's a problem. While it is refreshing to have a bunch of characters who are not cynical in nature or in action, they are not written well enough to make them feel like anything more then vessels for speeches. Aside from Damon's relationship with Cate Blanchett and the tragic fates of Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin, it is very difficult to tell the characters apart. Blanchett herself is somewhat off the boil, with her French accent comically slipping on more than one occasion.

As a result, it becomes difficult to enjoy The Monuments Men as anything more than an old-school romp like The Dirty Dozen, in which a lot of famous people run around stiffing Nazis and Russians. There is a certain amount of pleasure to be wrought out of John Goodman getting his gun off - just look at his performance in The Big Lebowski. And as a film about older men being put in combat situations, it's a damn sight funnier and more entertaining than The Expendables.

The film also boasts better cinematography than many of the old-school romps that it eventually resembles. Phedon Papamichael is best known for his work with Alexander Payne on Sideways and Nebraska, but he also has form in period works, having lensed the remake of 3:10 to Yuma and Walk The Line. Some of the exterior shots are exquisite, such as the wide shot of the abandoned castle or the field in which Goodman and Dujardin are ambushed.

Credit should also go to the props department for recreating all the masterpieces that are referenced, including the joint MacGuffins of the Van Eyck altarpiece and Michelangelo's Madonna and Child. Often in war films there is so much collatoral damage that the artistry of a particular building or object doesn't seem to matter, but here we are given the chance to appreciate the craft on offer. The scene inside the castle, featuring all the different sculptures, is one of the highlights in this regard.

Ultimately, however, there is only so much that visuals and humour can do to keep a story going. The speechifying nature of the characters reflects the fact that the narrative keeps needing a shot in the arm, being unfocussed and needlessly meandering as it follows the different groups of characters. Like Nixon before it, it is a film of enjoyable moments which struggles to connect them either convincingly or compellingly.

The Monuments Men is an admirable failure from Clooney which comes to us with the best intentions and falls well short of expectations. Clooney's right-on credentials aren't in doubt, and as a modern-day take on old-school war films, it's reasonably entertaining. But its lack of character depth, coupled with the odd bad performance, prevent it from being anything more than forgettable fun. You won't rush to destroy it afterwards, but there won't be much call for preserving it either.
April 1, 2014
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
February 20, 2014
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

I think critics just have ridiculously unreasonable expectations towards a star spangled cast for a film that's ALSO written and directed by Clooney. Or would actually jump at a chance to bash the guy.

The Monuments Men is rich in great comedic moments, a coherent plot with character driven points as well as a rounded score of dramatic turns. However things do get a little predictable to a point of formulaic embarrassment.

I found the light-hearted 90's stylistic approach (indicated as a "stiffly nostalgic tone" by RT) juxtaposed the rather grim, dreaded nature of the WWII setting very well. It created a welcoming contrast that alternatively gave the movie a sense of identity for a 2013 production.

The acting was great but again that's to be expected considering the cast. However what really stuck out was the subplot between Damon and Blanchett. It masterfully draws a line between romance, seclusion and trust through various nuances. Without going into details I just wanted to highlight how well crafted their relationship was.

Unfortunately by comparison similar elements of the film felt diminished, Murray and Balaban's friendship, Goodman and Dujardin's comradary, Bonneville's death... hell even Clooney himself seemed a little watered down by comparison but that's kind of expected considering all the screentime was filled with humor instead and c'mon, there's more than enough charm to deliver in that respect between these guys.

So between the dated stylistic approach (Hell, it even ends in them walking into a sun set) and loads of unsolicited humor it's hard to even consider The Monuments Men a war film. Does that necessarily make it bad though? Definitely not, I found the entire experience to be quite enjoyable and I'd surely recommend it to others.
February 20, 2014
Drake Tsui

Super Reviewer

The Monuments Men is a good movie, but one that doesn't reach its full potential for being truly memorable. I understand why it has received the negativity it has received, and in away it deserves it for being far too ambitious without really being anything remarkable either. This really could have stood out in terms of a war drama, but as it is, it's a mindless entertaining yarn that obviously took creative liberties to tell its story of what happened during the war. I enjoyed the film because films like this are interesting to me, and I found that the story moved at a good pace, even if at times you could clearly where the story had its weak parts. Overall, this is an enjoyable movie if you want a mindless war drama, but keep in mind that it's not excellent, but it's not as bad as you might think. The Monuments Men is good for what it is, but it could have been so much more as well. I guess the best way to describe this film is as a guilty pleasure. The film has hints of brilliant storytelling, but at times it does feel a bit tedious, and it could have been reworked to really make it a standout feature. This isn't an awful movie, but I can see why people have criticized the film the way they did. This is a fun movie to pass the time and it's worth seeing if this is your cup of tea. The film could be better, but the f8inished film, isn't bad, it just leaves you wanting a bit more out of the film's material. I mean, there is plenty of potential that is wasted here, but The Monuments Men is simply good and leaves room for improvement.
February 16, 2014
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

    1. German Soldier at Ghent: John Wayne...
    2. Richard Campbell: Yes, John Wayne...
    – Submitted by Sean R (58 days ago)
    1. Richard Campbell: Right now, you wish that German had shot you.
    – Submitted by Sean R (58 days ago)
    1. James Granger: How many men?
    2. Frank Stokes: For now six.
    3. James Granger: Jesus!
    4. Frank Stokes: With you that's seven.
    5. James Granger: That's much better.
    – Submitted by Charles M (2 months ago)
    1. James Granger: If it weren't for us, you'd be speaking German.
    – Submitted by Trina B (2 months ago)
    1. Frank Stokes: Your lives are more important than a piece of art.
    – Submitted by Trina B (2 months ago)
    1. Frank Stokes: You can add this to the list of Hitler's failures.
    – Submitted by Trina B (2 months ago)
View all quotes (8)

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Foreign Titles

  • Monuments Men - Ungewöhnliche Helden (DE)
  • Monuments Men (FR)
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