The Monuments Men (USA/Germany, 2014)

the-monuments-men-movie-posterDirected by: George Clooney. All right, hear me out here. This didn’t look good, like not even a bit. It looked like something that might look good if it had made a whole lot of different decisions instead of the decisions it actually made. Basically, it is what it looks like, and shame on me for being optimistic that it would turn out to be otherwise. What it looked like was a dumb, half-cooked, Hollywoodized WWII caper film, jam packed with aging white male leads all struggling for their moments of screentime. I guess I’m not sure what I thought—that it would be funny but also sombre, like the Dirty Dozen maybe, but obviously not at all like the Dirty Dozen because of course not. And it’s not like Ocean’s 11 was actually any good (nor Ocean’s 12, nor Ocean’s 37…), but in my defence, none of that shit was actually directed by Clooney, whose own directorial filmography is actually pretty decent. Good Night and Good Luck was totally legit, one of the better biopic/old-tymey/political consciousness movies around. Ides of March? Not great but perfectly good, perfectly respectable. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was also a pretty reasonable movie, compelling, well done, and if I recall correctly, it was pretty funny too (although an old film prof used to say that if you haven’t seen a movie in the last 5 years, you haven’t seen it, so fair enough). This is all just a roundabout way of saying that this movie kind of fell flat on every criteria. As a WWII caper, it’s kind of weak sauce, pretty fucking safe, and in the year 2014, it feels kind of empty and pointless compared to the war capers of the 60’s enacted by people who were actually there (Guns of Navarone, Heroes of Telemark, etc.). The motivating sentiment behind the action, all that stuff about the endangered artworks being worth dying for because they represent the pinnacle of human civilization in contrast to the barbarism of the Nazis, etc, is a little fucked, first because of the conceit of making European artwork stand in for all of humanity (not inconsistent with the 40’s—fair enough—but this movie is coming out in 2014), and because it’s kind of a weird argument anyway. I mean, I had a hard time swallowing the movie’s built-in justification for all those people dying just to save fuckin Private Ryan in Saving Private Ryan, but at least he was a person. I mean, it’s shitty to lose all those paintings, but if someone decided they didn’t want to die for that shit, that would be perfectly reasonable, wouldn’t you say? Call me jaded, I dunno. But the main thing with this film is that it’s lame. Just. Fucking. Lame. The script does a good enough job of rushing us through the characters and their motivations, glossing over any conflict they might have for signing up for this cockamamie scheme, but the dialogue itself ranges from tolerably quaint and un-funny to fucking groan-worthy. Who wrote this script? Clooney and (usually solid) longtime collaborator Grant Heslov, or the scriptwriting team for a fucking CMT sitcom? Did you write this movie, Reba? Barf. If I had to give this movie a star rating, I wouldn’t give it a Barf out of Five stars, but I’d be tempted. God dammit, Clooney, don’t you have any fucking radar? Not a welcome addition to the canon of WWII in film, and not a welcome addition to the filmographies of any of the people in it. I’m not terribly surprised about Bill Murray (witness this year’s turd-looking Rock the Kasbah) but I’m just disappointed.  And John Goodman, god bless him, has been in some stinkers (from the brilliant stinkery of King Ralph to the plain old shit pile that was Red State). And Matt Damon, I’m sure, just had some time to kill between Bourne movies so he thought he’d hang with his bud Clooney for a few weeks and shoot a movie, why not? But Cate Blanchett, please! I believed in you! And if you can’t trust a movie by a Bob Balaban appearance, then I just don’t know what this world is coming to.

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One response to “The Monuments Men (USA/Germany, 2014)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2015 | Offhand Reviews·

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