All-star cast falls surprisingly short in historical biopic: Monuments Men leaves short-term, forgettable impression

by Jeffrey Robinowitz ’17, staff writer

Biopic, World War II, all-star cast and crew including six Oscar winners: how could it fail? Apparently, in more ways than one. George Clooney brings audiences the true story of The Monuments Men, a ragtag team of art experts tasked with saving pieces of art and other culturally important items before their destruction by the Nazis during WWII.

The film reeks of Oscar bait, as its original Dec. 18th release date clearly indicates, but was instead released this February for obvious reasons. If Clooney had released the film in December, it would have been completely ignored by the Academy.

By releasing it in February, he avoids the embarrassment of being snubbed this year and being snubbed next year, since releasing a film so far from next December is almost a guarantee that it won’t be remembered by then.

Regardless of artistic and professional intentions, The Monuments Men is a film full of great ideas that are ultimately executed with uninteresting characters, a lackluster narrative, and an overall absence of real emotion.

The cast is spectacular: Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Cate Blanchett, and George Clooney. This lineup will rival any film released in the next year, but it somehow falls short.

None of the characters these actors portray seem to have much depth to them. Each one feels like a collection of funny quirks and one-liners that are supposed to make them interesting, but only suffice to make them one-dimensional. And on a personal note, if I see one more movie where George Clooney plays “the man with the plan” who always knows what to do, always sees the bad guy coming, and always has a quick joke to throw in someone’s face, I’m going to set my hair on fire.

This problem with the characters is only amplified once the narrative structure is introduced. While the story, which splits our main characters up into several pairs and scatters them across Europe, may be true to life, it is undeniably bad for the film.

The film simply has too many characters for its 118-minute runtime to allow any one of them to have a full story arc. These men experience dramatic, life altering events occur that would shake the very foundations of any man’s identity, yet who they are at the beginning of the film is identical to who they are at the end of the film.

This is also a major issue for all of the important emotionally moments in the film. When the aforementioned life-altering events occur, you don’t feel a thing because you have no reason to care about these characters.

Now with all that being said, you may think that I hate The Monuments Men, but I don’t. It’s not a terrible movie or even a bad movie; it’s just a complete waste.

With all its potential to succeed, The Monuments Men turns out to be an “okay, History Channel documentary” with some outstanding actors playing characters rather than doing voiceovers. It’s well made and relatively well written. It’s just disappointing that it came out so weak. I’d say go see The Lego Movie instead. The cast is half as prestigious but the film’s twice as good.

First-year Jeffrey Robinowitz is a staff writer. His email is jrobinow@fandm.edu.

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