BY ASHLEY KOWALEWSKI
I’m going to preface this review by saying if you’re not an art lover or just generally a George Clooney/Matt Damon fan, you probably won’t enjoy this movie very much. If you are an art fan or have studied classical art in any capacity (and enjoyed every freaking minute of it), you’ll sit on the edge of your seat with your breath held for the entire two-hour movie and your heart will break into teeny tiny pieces when you see the remnants of a burnt Picasso.
The Monuments Men is based on the true account of a group of men who worked as curators, architects, professors and historians of art and joined the ranks of World War II soldiers to track down and recover the millions of pieces of stolen art from the Nazis, who took it from various museums, churches and collections throughout Europe during the war. The group was played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Dimitri Leonidas with Cate Blanchett helping a swoon-worthy Damon back in Paris. While Clooney was at the helm, directing his men to various areas in Europe, Damon was in Paris trying to crack a very untrusting Blanchett (also an almost unrecognizable Blanchett–who knew they could get rid of that ethereal glow? I thought it was just permanent), who had worked for the Nazi occupation and knew where the Nazis were hiding all of the stolen works of art. Through one of the “greatest treasure hunts in history,” these men searched and searched until they recovered and returned as much of the missing art as they could–particularly before the Russians got to it and kept it.
The movie was based on a book of the same name (which I’ve just ordered, by the way), but it got terrible reviews when it came out. From what I’m betting, people were expecting a lot more action (to be fair, it was listed as an action-thriller. They lied about that. Sorry.) and for it to be more of a war type movie. There’s very little action, but a lot of dialogue, though I don’t think it was boring at all. It started off with the same sort of set up that you might remember from Ocean’s Eleven (I’m pretty sure I recited the “You think we need one more? You think we need one more.” line when Clooney and Damon were sitting at a bar discussing their team), but it was also really witty and had silly sarcastic lines that you would imagine coming from such a cast. I thought the entire cast played well off one another and truthfully, I don’t see anything wrong with this movie. Don’t watch this expecting Saving Private Ryan. Watch it and realize that our culture and our history wouldn’t be what it is today if these men and women hadn’t sacrificed everything for just art (it’s not just art, for the record). Maybe this is the former art history major in me, but I was actually breathless when they (SPOILER ALERT) found Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child statue and recovered the Ghent Altarpiece. Breathless.
I’m not entirely sure how accurate the movie is to the real story (I know they changed a lot of names), but nonetheless it’s a good story and it’s always nice to see the different little ways Hilter lost. It’s sort of just desserts that he was a terrible artist, tried to steal art for his new museum and ended up losing the war and the art along with it.
And while there is a fair amount of wit and charm from the cast, there are some serious emotional moments that remind you that it was still the war and there was a massive amount of devastation. And yes, people lost their lives for art. But really, they made history saving history.