Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Monuments Men

Movie Review: The Monuments Men

Despite some fairly dodgy reviews that came out saying that his was a bit like Dad's Army with Art, or Ocean's Eleven with Nazis, I took myself along to this on Friday afternoon. One of the wonderful things about being between jobs is that you can take yourself along to an afternoon movie.

Having my expectations lowered by a rather few bad reviews, I went along very happily as I had a free ticket up my sleeve. I don't mind seeing not so good films if they're discounted.

Regardless, I came away two hours later pleased I'd gone along.

Okay, I will attest to the the fact that I love movies and books about the second world war. I'm also a sucker for Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville and John Goodman. I'm also a sucker for art and art history.

The premise of the story, a crack team of art historians is called together to help save the great art of Europe which has been stolen and hidden away by Hitler at the back end of the second world war. These men, all over forty, get the call to go into battle zones in an attempt to find the lost treasures. Matt Damon's character is based in Paris, sent to gather information from Kate Blanchett's character, a gallery curator hell bent on saving the treasures.

Okay, it's a bit of a hotch-potch of a film, flipping from one mission to another as the group break apart to search for information on these great piece of art, including the Van Eyk altarpiece of Ghent. Most of these pieces had been buried in mines around Germany ready for inclusion in a planned Fuhrermuseum if the German's had won the war. Needless to say, this didn't happen and this team were sent to find the art before Hitler's men destroyed it all.

(The Ghent Altarpiece, courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are tragedies. There are some laughs. I found the whole film very entertaining, but then again, I'm somebody who 'visits' paintings as a matter of course on my holidays. I've made it to San Gimingnano to see frescoes in a church, just as I've spent hours scouring galleries, sitting in front of paintings thoroughly flummoxed, awe struck by the beauty in front of me. When in London, an afternoon is normally spent at the Sainsbury's wing gawping at the Da Vinci Cartoon. Amazing stuff, but this is my foible.

Some of the biggest tragedies, apart from the human tragedy of what happened during the second world war was the outright destruction of some of the world's greatest art at the hands of the Nazis.  The history surrounding this movie is fascinating and I'm keen to track down the book to find out more.

What was vaguely annoying about the film was some of the relationships the film chose to focus on - inparticular, the Bill Murray and Bob Balaban character grated at times. They played themselves, So be it. This was minor and forgivable as after some of these sections, the action hotted up.

What the movies lacks is a bit of cohesion. George Clooney loves climbing up on his soapbox at times and there are times when this film feels a little bit preachy. Personally, I don't mind this as it's things I'm interested in and to the most point agree with. I really do believe that Art is part of the make up of humanity. It provides a starting point to who we are. It reminds us that we are more than just flesh and blood. Art is VERY important to us all, no matter how many people have never set foot in an art gallery.

It was because of this that I really enjoyed the film. For most other people, I'd say get it out on DVD

I liked the very end of the film too,where a group of officials were asking Clooney if it was worth the waste of life to liberate these items. Clooney's father plays his older self in a cameo part believes that it was.

I agree with him entirely. I'm also looking forward to getting my hands on the book to find out more.

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