The Monuments Men: What You Need To Know
Coming to Blu-Ray and DVD next week (Monday June 10th), The Monuments Men is one of the more unusual WWII films you’re likely to see. Here’s everything you need to know…
Who’s in it?
Written, directed by and starring George Clooney, The Monuments Men features an impressive cast list that also includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and, last but by no means least, Bill Murray. There are also appearances from The Artist star Jean Dujardin and actor / director / producer Bob Balaban.
What’s the plot?
Set in Nazi-occupied Europe at the back end of the second world war, Monuments Men is based on the true story of a team of art experts sent to Europe by then-president Franklin Delany Roosevelt to recover stolen works of art from the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners. The mission is, by all accounts, an impossible one: as the Third Reich was crumbling underneath Hitler’s iron fist, Nazi soldiers were under instructions from the Fuhrer to destroy any art works that might be in danger of being reclaimed by the Allies, plus the Russian soldiers are also out to claim the precious works for themselves, making the group’s task all but futile.
However, that does’t deter Frank Stokes (Murray), who assembles a crack team of seven individuals, including himself (in real life the number was more like 350) tasked with recovering the valuable pieces before the Nazis can set them on fire. Arriving in Europe under the pretense of being US soldiers, the teams pair off to tackle various regions and set about recovering the artefacts before they are captured by the Russians or destroyed by the Germans.
Does it deliver?
Clooney’s script does take some liberties with the historical facts and the director has said that the storyline is “about 80% accurate”. The film has received some mixed reviews from critics and cinema-goers and this may be in part down to the handling of the story - it does feel at times like Clooney couldn’t quite make up his mind whether to play it straight or go for the laughs, so consequently the gags that are in there aren’t as strong as they could’ve been.
That said, the story itself is a fascinating one and the film is saved by some strong performances from a very talented cast, not least from Murray, who has lost none of his on-screen magnetism and is as brilliantly dry as ever.