I love history. I forget that sometimes. Throw me in an old graveyard to read tombstones, an old building like the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC or a museum and I can get lost for days (if security would let me). So the historical perspective of The Monuments Men was a big draw for me. My review doesn’t have any big spoilers, but there may be a few small ones. Overall, they will not take away from your movie experience in and of themselves.
The plot kinda goes like this: Based (a little loosely at times) on a true story and events that happened near the end of World War II, The Monuments Men builds the story of a great treasure hunt for the booty the Nazi’s have taken from every country they have plundered. Not only that, but if the Nazi regime fell, they were going to destroy everything and wipe thousands of years of history off of the books. If they couldn’t own it, nobody else could either, I guess. The rescue of the world’s art is the concept, and an unlikely team is put together of mostly older gentlemen with either education or experience with art, and/or art restoration and history. The unlikely bunch portrayed in the movie slowly figure out how to work together, and make loyal bonds that we assume last a lifetime. It was honestly an impossible mission that somehow worked. These guys were willing to risk their lives to help in some way defend and rescue some of man’s greatest artistic achievements.
The movie has lots of action and drama, and a few really good lines as well. There were also a few ‘face palm’ moments for me, but you will have to figure those out for yourself. Over all though I really enjoyed how the characters figured each other out and bonded. There were a few tough scenes, after all they are portraying a war. Strangely, most of the critiques I read of this movie before we went wanted it to be tougher, harder, more true war action. Maybe I’ve just grown soft as I’ve aged, but in my opinion there was plenty about the reality of war in it. The reality of war isn’t all bombs and guns and death, although there are a few scenes that give you a taste of this. Sometimes though, most of the time, it’s about people forced out of their homes, living lives they never dreamed of in their worst nightmares, doing without and struggling just for basic necessities. There were several scenes that showed this reality, even though the movie didn’t dwell on it. I liked how they handled these scenes. The mission was important, and the movie focused on this as well as the strange turns of luck that sometimes made it all work.
I also really enjoyed the actors in this movie. It was a big name cast that played very well together: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett. Bill Murray did an excellent job with his role as Richard Campbell. His character gets teamed up with Bob Balaban’s Preston Savitz. Their relationship starts off pretty rocky at first, and I won’t spoil it all for you. Suffice it to say that they find some creative and very touching ways to get along. They were my favorite pair, but I really enjoyed each character. Sometimes the jump between scenes was a little wide for me, but you follow the story pretty well and there is a part of the rescue that sews the whole movie together.
I love these guys.
This was a fun and enjoyable movie. There are other blogs that are documenting glitches in history or action that the movie had, so I’m not going into that here more than to make a couple of points. Some of the characters portrayed are made from a historical composite of a combination of people. Also, the actual team for the real projects was around 400 people. You have to conclude in the movie that there are lots of people working with the team to save the art, even though you are never directly told this. You will want to watch some of the credits too. There are black and white photos of the real Monuments Men with some of the art they saved. I will leave you with some of my favorite quotes from the movie.
George Clooney as Lt. Frank Stokes: “You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and that’s exactly what we are fighting for.” (speaking to the President and some executives)
He rephrases this for his men later – Lt. Frank Stokes: “If you destroy an entire generation of people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants, and it’s the one thing we can’t allow.”
Bob Balaban as Pvt. Preston Savitz: “So we get to shoot some Nazi’s?” (in answer to Lt. Stokes)
Hugh Bonneville as Lt. Donald Jeffries: “Well, the chaps are all very anxious to get started. We have your architect from Chicago, a sculptor, a director of design at the school of fine arts, and a few other experts in various fields of art.” (Describing this unlikely military team)
Matt Damon as James Granger (who has been trying to get the character Claire Simone to help them most of the movie) “This is a directive signed by Hitler that says if he dies or if Germany falls, they are to destroy everything.”
Cate Blanchett as Claire Simone (finally!): “How can I help you steal our stolen art?”
To help clarify this quote and why I like it: The character of Claire Simone appears to have been based on Rose Valland, a Parisian museum curator who was drafted by the Nazis during the Paris occupation to assist with art “acquisitions”. As depicted in this film Valland secretly kept a detailed ledger of all works that passed through Nazi hands, the original (often Jewish) owner of each work, and the location in Germany where each item was eventually transported. The Monuments Men had another valuable treasure in this ledger with all of that information.
I came for the history, I stayed for the characters. I hope you also watch and enjoy it. I plan on purchasing it and adding it to my current movie collection. When you have a chance to see it, come back and share your favorite quotes with me.
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