The Monuments Men - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Monuments Men Reviews

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September 11, 2017
One of the most disappointing films ever made. Clooney proves to us again why he is one of the most overrated actors/directors in history.
August 20, 2017
SCOTT: (Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond) Greg, it s time to review The Monuments Men starring George Clooney, who also wrote and directed the film.

GREG: (Greg Smith, Founder of Agile Writers of Richmond, VA) It wasn t a monumental film but I enjoyed myself. Let s recap.

SCOTT: The year is 1944. The second world war is nearing an end as Allied troops close in on Hitler s German forces. As European cities are being reduced to rubble, an American museum curator named Frank Stokes (George Clooney) is concerned about the safety of all the priceless works of art in Europe. These paintings and statues are at risk of being destroyed or stolen by either the Nazis or the Russians.

GREG: Stokes needs help and he knows who he wants with him. So, in a scene reminiscent of The Dirty Dozen he travels around the art community picking up six old friends (and I do mean old). Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) join Stokes along with younger men James Granger (Matt Damon) and Frenchman Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin). They are all civilians and so must endure a comical bout of basic training. Once they are on their way, they are met with resistance from men on the front lines. Stokes tries to dissuade allied commanders from bombing priceless buildings only to meet resistance in the face of saving art over saving lives.

SCOTT: Greg, The Monuments Men is a pretty good movie that means well. But it fell far short of what it could have been, especially given that the movie assembled such a luminary cast. In fact, that star-studded cast may have been the albatross that weighed the film down (to mix metaphors). When I see George Clooney, Bill Murray, and John Goodman on the screen, I see those actors rather than the characters they are playing. The Butler made the same mistake last year. One or two mega-stars is fine, but having superstar actors in every scene is unnecessary and distracting. Why not find some lesser known quality actors to play a few of these roles? A second problem the movie suffers from is predictability. There is a scene in The Monuments Men where John Goodman gets shot at from a window in an abandoned building. There is tension: who could be this mystery shooter? No one should be surprised that it ends up being a child. And of course we know that the film must conclude with the men finding the prized Madonna of Bruges statue. There are other issues, too, but before I go on I want to hear you weigh in here, Greg.

GREG: I found Monuments Men to be a light (if not light hearted) World War II era film about a subject that had gone unnoticed until now - Hitler s obsession with art. As the Germans invaded city after city, they rounded up all the art (and gold) they could find. The tension in this film is created by a deadline. With the allies closing in on Berlin, Hitler has given an order to destroy all the art rather than leave it to the Russians or Americans. I bought into this story, Scott. I didn t expect a lot of character acting. I was satisfied to watch the heroes in this story figure out where the stolen art was being kept and race to find it before the Germans turned it to ash. The lighter moments of the film were offset by some more dramatic moments. While there were few very high or very low points, I got the message: people come and go, but our art tells the story of civilization and it is worth our lives to protect it.

SCOTT: To me, that message was communicated somewhat poorly, Greg. In the middle of the movie, George Clooney s character gives a rousing speech that says, essentially, that whereas human lives are temporary, art is forever. That sounds noble, but his speech also implies that human lives are expendable in the effort to preserve paintings - a not so noble belief. Bottom line is that characters in this movie willingly die in the service of preserving artwork, and I can (grudgingly) accept this loss of life because it was their choice. But one gets the sense that Clooney (and the movie) are telling us that any lives are worth risking to preserve artwork, including the lives of civilians who certainly aren t freely choosing to risk themselves. The fourth and final issue I had was that the heroes in the movie don t grow. Good hero stories show us how heroes become transformed. But these monuments men show a selfless courage from the beginning of the movie to the very end. I have the same problem with the character of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games, who also shows heroic qualities from beginning to end and never grows. Yes, the characters in The Monuments Men are heroes but we, the audience, are most satisfied when we see heroes undergo significant change and evolution. This just doesn t happen in this film.

GREG: I didn t get that message from the movie. I don t recall any civilian loss of life in the efforts to save the lost art. The message I got was that these men were so committed to preserving our (combined) heritage that *they* were willing to risk, and in some cases give, their lives. It was both noble and heroic. And the orders to save this art came from on high. Truman himself signed the orders and that makes him a hero, too. As we ve seen before, heroes don t always transform (themselves or others). Sometimes they perform a selfless act and that alone is enough to earn them the badge of honor. In this case, six men who had nothing to gain from their acts risked their lives for an ideal. Monuments Men did a good job of selling that ideal to me and I bought it whole.

SCOTT: The villains in this story are primarily the Germans and the Russians, both of whom want to steal artwork that belongs to others. The Germans especially are cast in an evil light because they prefer to destroy any priceless art that they can t have for themselves. There are countless movies featuring Nazi Germany and Hitler as the villains, and their relentless bloodthirstiness never fails to stir us into hatred for them. But while they are effective villains in this movie, they aren t terribly memorable or noteworthy in any way. The Monuments Men is first and foremost a film about the heroism of an ensemble of men who sacrifice themselves to improve and preserve humanity s artistic contributions to the world. The German villains are largely window dressing whose main role is to challenge our heroes.

GREG: You re right about that, Scott. Usually when you have an overwhelming enemy like the Nazis the director will pick one character to represent all of the evil-doers. This gives us one person to identify with as the villain. While there was one Nazi curator who ran off with a ton of art, we hardly see him after the first act. Then there was a scene where Stokes confronts a Nazi head of a concentration camp. But that was just a random bad guy. A good hero needs a good villain and Monuments Men failed to deliver.

SCOTT: I somewhat enjoyed The Monuments Men but was disappointed that it fell short of its potential. As I ve noted, the film suffers from too many Hollywood legends in its cast, a tendency to be overly predictable, a somewhat confusing message about sacrificing lives for artwork, and a set of heroes who do not transform themselves during their hero journeys. The Monuments Men is a pretty good movie but certainly not a great one, and so I can only award it 3 Reels out of 5. For reasons stated above, the heroes were clearly heroic but they didn t inspire me with their growth as characters. Because their hero journeys were stunted, I can only give them 2 Heroes out of 5. The villains were certainly villainous -- anyone who destroys priceless Picasso paintings merely because they can t have them themselves is indeed dastardly and barbaric. But the individual villain characters are not developed at all and so the best I can do is award 2 Villains out of 5 for them. Movie: Heroes: Villains:

GREG: While I think I enjoyed Monuments Men more than you did, Scott, I give the film the same score. This was a movie that informed more than inspired and it did that fairly well. I didn t know about Hitler s zeal to keep the world s art to himself. And I didn t know about his desire to put it all into a single museum in the heart of Germany or how close we came to losing it all. I also give Monuments Men 3 out of 5 Reels. I liked the heroes in this film but I agree they weren t as strong as some other hero films we ve reviewed. As you point out, there may have been too many stars in this one and not enough story to go around. There is a little bit of a redemption story for Hugh Bonneville s character, but it seemed to be a side dish. And lest we forget the role played by Cate Blanchett as the secretary who kept an itemized list of all the art that went through her museum. The film is full of mini-heroes who just barely add up to 3 out of 5 Heroes. And the villains: cardboard cutouts of movies gone by. Patently evil and uncaring. Dispicable in the face of their failures. There was no opposition here. I give them a blanket 1 Villain out of 5. Movie: Heroes: Villains:
½ July 26, 2017
An enjoyable time filler with good production values.
½ June 26, 2017
With an ensemble cast of superstars and a great underlying plot you'd expect this to be better - it wasn't. Clunky and in many places largely pointless. Even the plot lines developed have obvious holes and inconsistencies. A real letdown.
June 20, 2017
For some reason Clooney is unable to engage his audience in this one.
June 17, 2017
True story told with a great cast. The movie didnt disappoint me.
June 5, 2017
Quietly resonating war story but it just chops and skips all about far too much lacking cohesion and spreading its focus in a most scatter gun fashion
May 20, 2017
Watched 30 minutes and fell asleep. Worst movie of the year.
April 30, 2017
Not the best told story, especially in the beginning, but an absolutely worthwhile story. A definite must see for an alternative aspect of the war.
½ April 22, 2017
Amazing actors! Zero plot, action, or comedy. Worst piece of crap I have ever wasted my life on! Never watch this!!!
½ April 20, 2017
The Monuments Men largely wastes a fascinating true story and an a-list cast on a boring, slow movie that's severely lacking in conflict and tension, and whose attempts at inspiration often come across as pretentious.
April 15, 2017
170414: I don't want to leave the impression I did not enjoy this film. The historical perspective intrigued me and I wanted to know so much more. Considering the amazing cast and fantastic history however, The Moments Men just never quite satisfies. With a few peaks and valleys along the way, the finale just left me flat.
½ March 24, 2017
A fabulous cast telling a tremendous story, but sadly the narrative and direction lacks any energy or sense of hazard. It is simply a loosely connected series of scenes. An opportunity wasted, unusually for the usually Midas-touched Clooney.
March 14, 2017
This is based on a remarkable true story and featuring an all-star cast the film tries to be impressive. But maybe a bit too much so, with some scenes being overly patriotic. It is entertaining and informative but not exceptional.
February 26, 2017
Great cast but other then that its lacking all around.
Super Reviewer
½ February 24, 2017
Underrated feel good buddy comedy that has some older Allied gents trying to save art masterpieces from the clutches of greedy opportunistic Nazi types. While uneven this Clooney love child has it's moments.
February 3, 2017
I wanted to like this more. I'm sure they had fun making it. But the writing was just not worthy of the talent, or the subject matter. Sigh.
January 28, 2017
A great story however I thought too comical and it could have been much better if more dramatic
½ January 20, 2017
This is just barely passible. It floats only because of the performances by its cast. On Blu-Ray.
January 13, 2017
One would think that this is a great premise for a great story and a great film, but the problem is that Monuments Men never gets you really interested in any of the characters. They probably should have focused on one German, one American, and perhaps one French or Belgian. Instead, you have a disjointed plot skipping around Europe and you end up caring very little for any of it. Using big name stars only makes you more separated from the characters, the period of time, and the story itself. It would have been much better if they had used good actors little known to the public, or if they are going to use famous actors, shrink the story down to focus on only a few people and develop those characters more. The Train, a great 1964 movie with Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield, touched on the same subject and did a lot more with a lot less.

One detail of the movie that really annoyed me was that they made up the character of Preston Savitz, played by Bob Balaban. This character was based on Lincoln Kirstein, who brought George Balanchine to New York from Russia. Together they later established the New York City Ballet after the war. He was a remarkable enough character on his own to warrant a film. It was his vast knowledge of art that led to him and architect Robert Posey (played by Bill Murray) in finding the Ghent Altarpiece-- the central piece of art in the film. Kirstein was very tall and had very strong features-- very different than Bob Balaban. They should have made the entire film revolve around Lincoln Kirstein-- you would have ended up caring about his character they you would have ended up with a much more engaging and satisfying picture.
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