Thursday, February 13, 2014

Movie Review - Monuments Men

Here I've been retired for almost 2 weeks and this is my first post. I'm finding that being retired is like starting a new job. You've got to figure out your new responsibilities, how to prioritize your time and learn how the coffee machine works. I'll be getting back to my baseball cards soon, but here's a movie review to fill some space.

I read the book this movie is based on a few years ago. It was an excellent book, outlining a piece of history I'd never heard of before. The story of how a US Army unit was dispatched to Europe, right on the heals of D-Day, to search out, protect and recover art from the Nazis as they fell back to Berlin. When I heard there was going to be movie I was excited.

Unfortunately, the early reviews were not good. I almost decided not to go, but I'm glad I did.

First off, it's kind of a mess of a movie. George Clooney is credited as the director and screenplay writer. One of the major complaints against the movie is it's sheer corniness. Clooney gives himself some of the worst lines as the movie tries to explain why it's important to recover the art. Things like, "Destroy a culture's history and it's like they never existed". Perhaps that's true but Clooney's delivery of pronouncements like this want to make you roll your eyes.

The first third of the movie is also very hard to follow. OK, we're in the fog of war, things are confused. But somehow, Clooney and his band of 7 (in actuality, the Monuments Men had about 400 men and women) somehow manage to be at the front, in Paris, and in Belgium with no apparent means of travel.

But despite all this, we (my wife, daughter and I) liked the movie. The Monuments Men managed to recover some 5 million pieces of art. The movie can only really attempt a small sample of this and it mainly concentrated on the alter piece from Ghent and the Michelangelo Madonna of Bruges statue. This at least (and finally) gave the movie some focus. Much of the movie is the personal stories of each of the characters (the book only went into some of that) rather than the detailed detective work (which the book explains in detail). The movie was "based on a true story" so much of this personal detail was made up for the movie but was mostly effective. It turns more into a World War II buddy movie.

Wikipedia has a good write up of the actual Monuments Men here.

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