George Clooney, our home by from Kentucky, has shown as his latest feature film another buddy movie, quite unlike the ‘Oceans’ franchise. Indeed, one could say this film is oceans apart from that one, set as it is in WWII Europe. Based on the book by Robert Edsel about the actual rescue of lots of priceless art from the clutches of the Nazis, near the end of WWII, it tells a moving story, which raised the question– Is it really worth a human life to save a work of art? As it turns out, the answer of the Monuments Men is an emphatic yes indeed. As Clooney says at one juncture “You can burn a person’s house and fields, and kill their relatives, and they’ll recover, but if you steal all their history, their achievements, then you may have ruined them for good”. Just so.
This movie is in many ways old school– it has old school war type music from Alexandre Desplait, it has old school humor right through it, keeping the tone light at times, and appropriately dark at others, rather like a Rembrandt painting. The ensemble cast is great (Clooney, Damon, Murray, Goodman, Bonneville, Blanchett and some excellent though unfamiliar faces), the scenery is beautiful, the task is noble, and the movie moves right along from scene to scene (under two hours in total). Sometimes the movie over-reaches, but with a good heart.
This is not a war movie like say, Saving Private Ryan or PT 109, or The Longest Day, as its tone is much lighter. Nevertheless, it is a very effective film for all its jauntiness. It raises the right questions, without becoming ponderous or tedious. In fact I would say that it is an excellent film to take your older children to, and have a conversation about what really is worth living or dying for, or what really is of most value in life.
I loved this film with its gentle touch, not feeling it had to portray a bunch of violence or men behaving badly (lustily) during the war. Admirable restraint is shown in the film in a way that is not at all typical of Hollywood these days, and in the dead zone season of the early months of year, this movie is a welcome relief from bad weather, bad TV, bad sports, and bad news in general. Finally, a film about self-sacrificial behavior for a worthy cause. So I would say, ignore the reviewers who just don’t get it. This movie is not intending to be epochal, or even too preachy or pretentious. It’s just trying to be a really good film reminding us of some of the things that really matter in life— and in this regard it succeeds admirably.