Saturday, March 1, 2014

Movie Review: Monument Men

On the eve of the Academy Awards I chose to see a movie for the sake of seeing a movie, bypassing all of the politically correct crapola that was available.  I've seen some of the nominated movies-American Hustle, Captain Phillips, and Wolf of Wall Street-all good.  Wolf was the only one that's "great" and that's a stretch.  I might catch the rest of them on cable if the mood strikes.  
Monument Men covered two subjects that fascinate me-World War II and art.  The movie was based on a true story about a small group of men who were sent by commissioned by FDR to find stolen art from the Nazis while protecting the art that was yet to be stolen.  The stakes were raised once finding Hitler's "Nero Decree" that promised to destroy all stolen art along with much of Europe's infrastructure in the event Germany lost the war. 
George Clooney played Stokes, the leader of this rag-tag bunch of army men.  He recruited six others to help him, all former military men who worked in some kind of artistic field.  John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damen, and Bill Murray were some of the big names in the cast.

The story was relatively simple.  The men were not highly respected or supported by the other soldiers they camped with.  Most soldiers believed art wasn't worth lives.  Clooney's character argued that art was a primary example of freedom, the very ideal the U.S. was fighting for.  Eventually they caught a break when one of the men figured out that the Nazis took trucks of art to cities with mines.

Blanchett played a curator at one of the museums in France.  She did not trust the Allies or anyone.  As each piece of art "disappeared" in the museaum, she meticulously logged it into her ledger.  Once the Americans found a mine full of art and gave it back, she realized they weren't keeping it for themselves.  She gave them the locations for much of the art.
While tracking down paintings and scupltures two of the men were shot down, one Frenchman who made the mistake of taking a smoke break on a battlefield and another Englishman who tried to protect Michelango's Madonna of Bruges sculpture and the Ghent Altarpiece.  These pieces inspired the men to track down the art.  In the end, they find much of the stolen art in the mines and a castle.  The Nazis burned several paintings once Germany surrendered.

My Opinion: I really liked the movie.  I was surprised how it was panned by so many critics.  George Clooney wrote a wonderful screenplay.  This is another piece of World War II that I never knew about.  The acting was solid and the story was interesting mostly because it was true.  4/5 Stars

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