I have to hand it to George Clooney, much like his character in the Oceans trilogy or indeed The Monuments Men, the guy can pretty much assemble any team in the world, make any film he wants to and milk it BUT - or maybe it's in spite of that – to his credit he continues to make films that are unexpected and unique. Not an easy feat in the over saturated copy and paste cultural mishmash that feeds the psyche of the business of show and more specifically when it comes to World War 2 tales.
Now don't get me wrong The Monuments Men probably won't be in my top 10 films of the year and it probably won't set the world abuzz like say a Batman film but I'm pretty sure it's the kind of film that families will enjoy watching together. It will no doubt be re-watched annually as it merges itself into our cultural zeitgeist and grows an ever increasing audience much in the same vein as many of those classic family films that are shown every Christmas (The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen, The Guns of Navarone, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Sound of Music) - with enough charm, wit of the gallows humour variety, hints at Indiana Jones style adventure, tense and entertaining bits that each family member will have a different or shared favourite scene whilst the underlying message is never forgotten. And I'm pretty sure that is exactly the kind of film George Clooney set out to make with The Monuments Men. To make it work getting the right cast involved would be key and Clooney is just the man to bring it together.
|The Monuments Men Poster ZOOM|
|The Monuments Men
An unlikely World War II platoon are tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners.
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Robert M. Edsel, Bret Witter
George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, Dimitri Leonidas
By its very definition Art means different things to different people. And I'm not going to bang on about the importance of artistic self expression or how art mirrors society and is a doorway to understanding our past as well as ourselves. But I do work in and write a blog mainly about film, one of the many artistic forms of self expression - so that should really be an indication of my feelings of the importance of art in our world. At a high level I believe that to appreciate art is to love yourself and love humanity (or vice versa), on a more tactile level decoding art reveals something about both the creator and the audience as we search for meaning and connection. If you are an art fan you'll see constant glimpses and references to many mythical art pieces, sadly some still lost or destroyed.
The Monuments Men is based on a factual book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel (a pretty interesting man in his own right and Founder and Chairman of The Monuments Men Foundation) the book is about a group of some 300 men and women put together to recover and protect art from falling into Nazi hands. Part of Hitler's grand plan was to acquire all the art that he could pillage from the countries the Nazis invaded (well art that he and his cronies considered good) and house it in an uber museum in his own honour. But as the war continues Hitler issues the “Nero Decree” stating that if anything happens to him or the Nazis plans for world domination - all the art collected must be destroyed - so as events on the European theatre of World War II unfold the clock is ticking down for the substantial collection stolen by the Nazis from across Europe.
|Matt Damon (left) and George Clooney in Columbia Pictures' THE MONUMENTS MEN ZOOM|
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 art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 – possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements.
|The Monuments Men stolen art infographic ZOOM|
You can wipe out a generation of people, you can burn their homes to the ground and they'll still find there way back. But if you destroy their history, destroy their achievements, it is if they never existed. That is what Hitler wants. That is exactly what we are fighting for.”I only have to think about London and if all the art, street-art, architecture, film, theatre, performance art and other forms of self expression were appropriated - the City would be a very different place, the cultural ramifications would be astounding. As much as a people are at the city’s heart the loss of art would render it soulless. The premise is a weighty subject but Clooney never lays it on too thick in fact his his whole approach is to keep it light, tinged with just enough drama to hint at the darkness and madness of war just underneath the surface. It is the kind of film that you expect the heroes to break into a song or at least whistle a defiant tune in unison.
Understandably throughout the film selling his mission and getting support is an uphill battle as retrieving art has a diminishing value as the ground war escalates and countless lives are at stake.
|(l to r) Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville and George Clooney in Columbia Pictures' THE MONUMENTS MEN ZOOM|
|Dimitri Leonidas, John Goodman, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bob Balaban in Columbia Pictures' action thriller THE MONUMENTS MEN ZOOM|
Again Clooney does not lay this on too thick . Rather he leaves to fill in the dots whilst he shows you the best and most decent of humanity and what we should be striving for as a species. Once I understood this - the expectations set by having a top tier cast that includes Private Ryan in a World War 2 film directed by George Clooney with a trailer that sells it as Oceans Seven go to war – The Monuments Men became immeasurably more of a pleasure to watch and a refreshing change from the darkness that usually accompanies this subject matter. Just to return to my early Oceans non comparison - The Monuments Men is closer to Mssrs. Smith goes to War. In fact everything about the The Monuments Men feels like it is from a film made years ago and I suspect that it will play well to family audiences. I wouldn't be surprised if it was suggested that there was some discussion initially about filming it in Black and white, as with Clooney's earlier Good Night, and Good Luck.) keep an eye out for the scene where George Clooney channels Clark Gable and is made up to his splitting image.
|Cate Blanchett in Columbia Pictures' THE MONUMENTS MEN ZOOM|
The tale of The Monuments Men is an old fashioned light men on a mission style story told from the perspective of these learned every men who slowly start discovering that they may well be in over their heads as some of the horror of one of the most destructive wars to blight us is revealed through their individual or shared adventures.
|(l to r) Sam Epstein, George Clooney, John Goodman, Bob Balaban and Matt Damon in Columbia Pictures' THE MONUMENTS MEN. ZOOM|
Not to digress too much – one of the most memorable scene for me would be a toss up between the record scene featuring Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) or the too short scene where Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) confront one of the film's antagonists. Whilst it bears similarities to a scene from Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds it feels entirely different and need I say it? Bill Murray is in it. I can't be the only person that sees the symmetry of a full circle of a young Bill Murry going to war in Stripes and here again as an older man in The Monuments Men? Class.
The Monuments Men is in UK cinemas from today Fri 14 February 2014
For more www.facebook.com/MonumentsMenUK
The National Gallery is home to some of the most prestigious works of art in the UK and was once the workplace of Cecil Gould, a Deputy Director at the gallery and real life “Monuments Man” following WW2. In addition, the gallery houses two paintings which were once in Nazi possession during WW2: Cranach’s “Cupid Complaining to Venus” (c.1525) was part of Adolf Hitler's private collection and Paolo Uccello’s “Saint George and the Dragon” (c.1460), seized at the beginning of WW2 by Hitler who gave orders that it should be destroyed rather than fall into the hands of the Allies.
Cranach’s “Cupid Complaining to Venus” will feature in the National Gallery exhibition Strange Beauty opening on 19 February.
The Establishing Shot: I SEE GEORGE CLOONEY'S CHARMING THE MONUMENTS MEN A THROWBACK TO OLD STYLE 50S WAR FILMS - THE MONUMENTS MEN REVIEW
|Craig's a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.|
When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, mentally storyboards the greatest film ever made & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime.
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