James Milstead’s review published on Letterboxd:
THE MONUMENTS MEN (15)
D: George Clooney
Columbia/Fox 2000/Smokehouse (George Clooney & Grant Heslov)
W: George Clooney & Grant Heslov
DP: Phedon Papamichael
Ed: Stephen Mirrione
Mus: Alexandre Desplat
PD: Jim Bissell
George Clooney (Lt. Frank Stokes), Matt Damon (Lt. James Granger), Bill Murray (Sgt. Richard Campbell), John Goodman (Sgt. Walter Garfield), Jean Dujardin (2nd Lt. Jean-Claude Clermont), Bob Balaban (Pvt. Preston Savitz), Hugh Bonneville (2nd Lt. Donald Jeffries), Cate Blanchett (Claire Simone)
Based on a true story, The Monuments Men is about the efforts of a small Allied platoon during WWII whose operation was to locate and preserve famous works of art, sculptures and other precious artefacts, including Michelangelo's Mother & Child, most of which were hoarded or destroyed by Nazi forces.
George Clooney, who also directed the film, plays the captain who heads the mission, joined by Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin. Cate Blanchett also makes an appearance as a French art expert who may know the whereabouts of many of the missing pieces.
The film quite plays out like Ocean's Eleven behind enemy lines, with the actors pretty much playing their usual type and a screenplay geared towards being quirky with its dialogue.
Unfortunately, the pacing of the first act is so suicidally slow that it has a huge impact on the second half of the film, while the quirky dialogue delivery to the subject doesn't have the same impact had the film taken a more dramatic approach. The production itself is very well done, with some good attention to 1940's Europe, and all the technical aspects of the film are generally good and it's all very well polished, although for a war film, it's very short on action, thrills and tension.
Originally slated for a December 2013 release to coincide with the awards season, this was pegged back to finish off post-production work and didn't make its premiere until February 2014. Ineligible for the 2014 Academy Awards, it didn't make many waves at the next years ceremony either (although a nod for Production Design may have been acceptable).
Considering the buzz prior to the film's release, the finished product was incredibly disappointing and not particularly engaging. Considering the talent involved, this film really ought to have been better.