Now that we have reached February, if you listen closely you can hear the collective sigh of relief from movies fans everywhere. It seems tradition in Hollywood to dump cinematic garbage in the first month of the year, past examples including Movie 43 and Texas Chainsaw 3D in 2013, The Devil Inside and One for the Money in 2012, and so on and so forth. This year turned out to be no different, as Hollywood’s practice of gifting movie audiences awful excuses for cinema continued with Devil’s Due, The Legend of Hercules and I, Frankenstein. Film fans set their sights on February as a possible savior for the abomination that is January, where the films begin to increase in quality, or at least, entertainment value. However, in the case of The Monuments Men, it looks like January-itis might be staying around for just one more week.
Starring an enormous amount of talent such as George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Bill Murray (just to name a few), The Monuments Men follows around a group of art curators, historians, and directors who are plunged into the ending stages of World War II. After finding out Hitler is taking famous art pieces and keeping or destroying them, the group is tasked with entering Germany with Allied forces in search of said pieces and returning them to their rightful owners.
Easily the biggest problem with The Monuments Men is the script, penned by Clooney and Grant Heslov and based off a book of the same name. Stilted and uninspired dialogue take all of these acting legends and reduce them to C-list caricatures. The amount of times I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at what was just said was too high for the talent involved. The emotional highs and lows never seem to hit because the characters are too one-dimensional and not fleshed out enough for the audience to care. On top of this, the plotting of the film leaves the first two acts filled with unnecessary scenes that don’t add anything to the overall story, and the film should have had more focus on the actual finding of the art and the emotional response to it, which the third act delved into very nicely. It’s a shame too since Clooney has assembled an all-star cast that can’t make any of the material work. For a majority of their scenes together, for example, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett must suffer through an extremely repetitive relationship, as Damon’s character wants to help while Blanchett remains apprehensive of giving him what he wants. It isn’t until the last time they meet that she finally gives in, an act that could have been done much earlier in the film and gone on to set up more for the third act to explore.
Direction and editing seem to be major problem throughout the film as well. The sign of a great director is that when watching a film you can tell that a certain individual directed it. For each of Fincher or Jonze’s films, they inject a certain style or flare into it that lets audiences know who is behind the project without a shadow of a doubt. Unfortunately, Clooney did not accomplish that with this film; it feels uninspired and unmotivated, as if anyone off the street could have sat in that director’s chair and the film would not have looked any differently. The connection with the characters was lost when they began splitting up and Clooney doesn’t give each character the time to connect with the audience, so when emotional events and tragedies happen on screen we can’t empathize and actually care. The film’s editing and pace suffer from the expansive and boring nature of the script and direction as well: scenes that should linger for emotional connection feel like they cut off too quickly and the slow pace of the first and second act shift into rapid fire as we approach the last 30 minutes of the film.
While The Monuments Men does not deliver the same level of atrocity as the many films in January have this year, it doesn’t seem to deliver anything whatsoever. A talented cast and interesting premise is wasted on a script full of holes and poorly written characters and direction that seem all over the place and lacking in any sort of flare or emotion. Rather than being just plain bad, this film suffers from being severely disappointing, which some could argue is even worse.
Review by Nick Franco