Monuments Men. Good God what a waste of time!
This dreary film, based on a true story that couldn’t have been anywhere near this boring, follows seven allied art scholars through basic training and into World War II. Their job is to find and restore major works of art that the Nazis have stolen. This gets tricky — not really interesting, just tricky — when they learn Hitler has given the order to destroy everything his army has plundered if the Reich falls, meaning Lt. Stokes (George Clooney, who also directs, co-writes and co-produces) and his squad are in a race against the allies as well as the Germans, at times needing to go behind enemy lines to stay ahead of the war.
Good God what a waste of time!
It could have been interesting. Really, it could have. Making the Monuments Men’s job seem dangerous and even slightly valuable relative to the rest of the war is one of the only things this film does well. But the Wikipedia article (article entitled “Monuments, fine arts and archives program”) is still more interesting.
The trick is, despite being set in World War II, there is almost no conflict in this movie.
Conflict with man, even the central conflict between men during this time period, is kept to the absolute periphery. There are maybe four shooting scenes in the entirety of the film, and only one of them is even tangentially related to the plot. There are some arguments between the men and higher-ranking officials about whether or not the army should dedicate supplies to their efforts, but they are brief and boring.
The only conflict with self of significance is when Lt. James Granger (Matt Damon) has to weigh the advances of French underground member Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett) against his loyalty to his wife. This conflict is brief and mostly overpowered by how unwieldy Blanchett’s French accent is and how forward and awkward her character’s advances are.
Monuments Men itself has a huge conflict with society when it tries to get people to care more about the art being destroyed in World War II than the lives. Ironically, Stokes chastises toward the end that the Nazis took better care of art than people, despite his own priorities being identical. Monuments Men not only fails to make art important, it fails to make its own central characters important.
Conflict with nature– just no.
It defies logic that Clooney and co-writer/producer Grant Heslov could take such an interesting story and retell it completely devoid of the one fundamental building block of good fiction.
The movie pussed out of its original Oct. 22 release, which would have put it in Oscar season and up against 12 Years a Slave and Thor: The Dark World at the box office, because Clooney said they were having trouble balancing humor and drama in post-production. Despite three extra months, they still got the mix horribly wrong. It’s undramatic, it’s unfunny, and there’s no conceivable reason to sit through the 118 excruciating minutes of this film.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT Daily. Shia LaWho? For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for.