starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett
screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov, based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter
directed by George Clooney
by Angelo Muredda There have been far worse prestige films than George Clooney's delayed Oscar season also-ran The Monuments Men, but there's rarely been a more misguided one. Hinging on a conceit that even the filmmaker appears to realize is weak sauce and based on a true story that's probably worth its weight in magazine articles that really make you think, the film follows the exploits of a team of ragtag art dealers and curators turned Allied troops, sent into Europe in the closing days of WWII to save the Western world's finest paintings, sculptures, and, yes, monuments, before Hitler could destroy them. It's perhaps a mild credit to Clooney the humanitarian that the overwhelming gaucheness of the premise--that European art is the thing most worth preserving amidst a war that saw the systematic genocide of 6 million Jews--rates not just a mention but a guilty structural response, too, in the form of a framing story that sees Clooney the actor, as team leader Stokes, lecturing his overseers on the ambiguous value of the mission. It's also to his shame as a screenwriter (alongside usual partner Grant Heslov) that the response is so ill-considered--the same canned "Art is all of us" spiel politicians who couldn't give a damn about art give in the promotional material for government-funded cultural events.