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The Monuments Men

“The Monuments Men” takes the historic story of Nazis stolen artwork off its pedestal and brings it to a theater near you.monuments_men

The movie is based on the book by Robert M. Edsal, which tells the true story of how Adolf Hitler stole most of the important European art and hid it for his private collection. Seems it was not enough for him to take their countries and their lives; he had to take everything they held sacred. Those who can’t paint art must steal it and try to dominate the world.

Director/Writer/Actor George Clooney (“The Ides of March”) stars as Frank Stokes, who sets out on a mission to find these great works of art and return them to their rightful owners. He puts together his crew of six men, starting with James Granger (Matt Damon from “Elysium”). I could tell they were going for some kind of “Magnificent Seven” thing here, and they almost pulled it off.

You can’t go wrong with John Goodman (“Inside Llewyn Davis”) and Bill Murray (“Moonrise Kingdom”) on your team – and in your movie. These guys may be too old to fight but are still at the top of their game. The more character that their faces develop over time just makes them better character actors. It’s not a complete sausage fest, as Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) plays Claire, the French babe who helps them find the art. If she told me, “You bring the potted meat and I will bring the wine,” I would be there.

This is a cool story, an important story, but one that played more like a documentary or re-creation than a compelling movie. Clooney kept the mood light with many small comedic and character bits with the war as a mere backdrop. I like Clooney, in front of and behind the camera, but he was not able to pull off the same magic as Billy Wilder did in “Stalag 17”. Clooney’s team of merry men seemed to float through this movie and the war like, well, like they were making a movie about it. Sure, a couple of them did not make it back, as if to only prove the price for their lives was priceless art.

This is an enjoyable movie, with some great actors and beautiful set pieces, but I never felt like these boys were really at war. This may be way it all happened, but they are selling this as an action movie. The true story may be a great thing, but this is not a great movie. For that reason, I must give it 3 stars out of 5, as standard movie faire. I expected more from this exceptional cast.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
http://bashmovies.wordpress.com/

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