Written, directed and starring George Clooney as “Fred Stokes” (George L. Stout), Harvard art conservationist, commissioned by the US Army in 1943 to lead “The Monuments Men”; a team of seasoned curators, architects, historians recruited to capture Nazi- looted masterpieces and return them to their rightful owners. A compelling story based on the 2009, “The Monuments Men” by Robert M. Edsel; liberal doses of “poetic license” romanticized, skimpy characterization inform the film, but titillating nonetheless.
A fine cast: Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Demitri Leonidas depict dedicated, intelligent men, who willingly venture into the corridors of war, risking life and limb to salvage iconic art works; works that Hitler raped from museums, churches, private collections. Scintillating dialogue revolves around their incentive and the role of art in antiquity.
Lurking at the core of “The Monuments Men” is more than Hitler’s megalomania, it’s his gluttonous, omnivorous greed to possess works that he, as a frustrated artist, could never in a thousand Reich’s, come close to emulating and the destruction of works that in his inchoate capacity he deemed “degenerate”.
Cate Blanchett gives a feisty performance as “Claire Simone” (Rose Valland) a member of the French Resistance, whose immaculate records (matched only by the Germans) led to the unearthing of monumental treasures stolen from Paris’s Jeu de Paume museum.
“The Monuments Men” is far too ambitions, too platitudinous, too sensational to ever reside comfortably in the annals of archival films, but it raises potent questions: is an inanimate object a legitimate substitute for a human life?; the concentration camps were still thriving when this commission was hatched; huge sections of the actual members (many women, and half the team was British) were eliminated, replaced by Hollywood mystique and glamour.
“The Rape of Europa” a documentary produced by author Edsel, is a gutsy nonfictional account, lacking artificial embellishments, of these unheralded heroes.
Missing many attributes “The Monuments Men” resonates with a corpulent, pulsating heart!
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!