It’s like The Expendables meet the Nazis in The Monuments Men (taking inspiration from the book of the same name). George Clooney’s A-list ensemble cast go in search of stolen artefacts in Germany, but rather than striving for laughs or whole-hearted seriousness, the film plods along with no great urgency and is instantly forgettable.
Clooney (who also produces, directs and co-writes Monuments Men) seems to going for comedy more than anything, but his uncertainty results in an indistinctively unfunny affair. The majority of the jokes fall flat and many of the scenes don’t seem to go anywhere; and Bill Murray’s inclusion, most of all, is disappointing because he’s never allowed to be his usual, funny self.
It’s a shame because the (true) story is an interesting one. During World War II, Allied units went into Nazi-occupied territories to (successfully) retrieve European art treasures from the hands of Hitler. Considered to be more than simple works of art, the Van Eycks and Michelangelos were important, cultural assets that defined our history.
Rightly, Clooney believes the Allied heroes deserve a film committed to recognising their efforts — however, this is not it. As well as the failed attempts at humour, there’s just too many characters queuing up for screen time rather than presenting any genuine drama, worthy of our attention.
Clooney does hint at going into the details of the Monuments Men and WWII (including a particularly intriguing theory about Nazis stealing gold tooth fillings from concentration camp victims). Mostly, though, the ex-ER star prefers to grin cheesily and focus upon the US flag from the comfort of his director’s chair, without any subtlety.
Monuments Men feels more like a vanity project than anything else… and a dull one at that.