When war films come out I get excited and cringe at the same time. Excited, because I am a fan of the genre. Cringe – because so many films get it totally wrong.
Having appropriately prepped you – let me say Monument’s Men was awesome.
This is “based on a true story,” which of course means the characters are fictionalized. That’s okay. You have a gathering of art and architecture experts, old guys, gathered to help try and save the Nazi-looted treasures. This required them to be on the front lines, locking horns with unit commanders who were more interested in saving their men’s lives than preserving history.
The movie avoids going over the top historically. This is not a band of heroes. They are old farts…not soldiers. They are not always successful. A few of them get killed before the movie is over and their deaths are not dramatic, but sad. In other words, the producers, Smoke House, did a fantastic job of making the movie believable.
What I know about fine art can be fit into a thimble. But I found myself rooting for these men, desperately hoping they will find the artwork before it is destroyed or re-captured by the Soviets.
I was worried at one point we were going to be drawn into a corny love story – but the writer’s tastefully dodged that. In fact, this movie is very well written. It is an ensemble movie – no one character jumps up as the hinge to the story. Every one of these men has a distinct personality that comes through from their dialogue and the acting.
Bill Murray is funny, yet oddly a wonderful actor. The scene of him in the officer’s shower, while wordless, is perhaps his best performance ever. His interplay with actor Bob Balaban throughout the movie shines.
My only critique of the movie was when they arrived in Normandy via landing craft. I know, I’m nit-picking…but I can’t let that slide. After that moment, when they all survey the beach, you get a sense of how the locale of the movie has shifted from England to war-torn France.
The movie does a great job of avoiding swearing and gratuitous violence. Yes, people get killed, but it’s not a typical Hollywood bloodfest.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I’m giving this five stars out of five. Go see it. Take other people with you. This is a story that cannot be told enough. It is a movie that attempts to define why WWII was being fought. It wasn’t just about good vs. evil…it was a war to preserve a way of life, our culture, and what best expresses that than our artifacts and art?