Clooney’s latest film unearths little-known WWII tale
You’ve got to hand it to actor-producer-director George Clooney: He may not make that many movies, but when he finally puts his mind to it, his new film of choice is invariably a cinematic gem. Take his latest starring and directorial effort, “The Monuments Men,” costarring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman and Bill Murray:
It unearths a little-known World War II tale about how art experts and curators were given the important task to retrieve priceless works of European art stolen by German generals who wanted to please Hitler by putting up a new art museum named after him! They ruthlessly pillaged churches and private collections in the countries they vanquished, leaving the populace culturally bereft and orphaned.
Granted, this isn’t “blockbuster” material for a big war drama, but it has an important theme that should remind us of the value of art and culture in our lives. To underscore his movie’s thematic point, Clooney shows how his team’s committed members risk danger, injury and even death to save priceless works of European art for future generations.
Since the film’s script is based on actual wartime events, its storytelling is uniquely believable, especially the sequence in which the art experts crack the case of the missing works of art when a dentist’s patient inadvertently squeals on a neighbor who turns out to be a top Nazi art thief gone incognito as a farmer!
Filmmaker Clooney fills his movie with fascinating and textured details that are candidly revelatory of character and passionate motivation, so viewers quickly relate to his film’s characters and the dangerous mission they bravely see to its successful conclusion.
Also impressive is the economical yet credible way that the filmmaker shows the defeated German army’s retreat across the European landscape, through many famous battle sites, which must have taken a lot of astute planning for the production to pull off without losing its shirt.
To be sure, “The Monuments Men” has its low moments, most often due to the fact that Clooney has put so many supporting characters into play that viewers sometimes have a tough time figuring out which subplot is being specifically developed in the course of the film’s long and sometimes rambling progression.
Happily, some key portrayals in the film are so striking and dynamic that they help restore the storytelling’s focus and pertinence.
The war drama’s gallery of memorable characters is led by Blanchett’s portrayal of a French curator who first rejects the American experts’ plea for help because she fears that the recovered paintings and sculptures will be shipped off to the United States.
When, her fears are assuaged by the experts’ scrupulous moves to return the stolen art pieces to their rightful owners, she becomes their most cooperative ally.
Not just film buffs but lovers of art and culture, as well, should watch “The Monuments Men” to bolster their own appreciation of the many seminal ways that the arts express who we are, and what we really feel—in our “heart of arts!”