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Movie Review

The Monuments Men

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some images of war violence and historical smoking.

Reviewed by: John Decker
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Action War Biography Drama Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
2014
USA Release:
February 7, 2014 (wide—2,800+ theaters)
DVD: May 20, 2014
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures

Adolf Hitler wanted to gain ownership of art in order to place it in the Third Reich’s museums—ones that already existed, and then in the Führermuseum that he planned on building in his hometown of Linz, Austria. Why did he want art that was from all over Europe? Why did he think that appropriating art from other people and countries would glorify the Third Reich?

Hitler applied to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts twice, and was rejected both times. Students who were accepted included Jews who painted in styles he vehemently opposed. Some of the Academy’s admission committee judges were Jewish. Do you think these factors contributed to both Hitler’s anti-Semitism as well as his seizure of art that he would then display at his Fuehrer Museum in Linz? Why or why not?

Is art worth a life?

Which of these four do you most agree?
a. Fighting for art is worth risking one’s life.
b. I’d fight for art if I had to.
c. I’d fight passionately for other things, but not for art. Art is important—but it’s not worth risking a life.
d. No lofty idea is ever as important as a human life.
Debate these four positions.

What qualities did the Monuments Men demonstrate that made them heroes?

Why are works of art or monuments meaningful to the countries they are created in? In what ways does art belong to a country or culture? What are the moral repercussions of stealing art or destroying monuments?

While the Nazis stole objects that held high financial and/or artistic value, they also seized items that held only personal, family or cultural value. Was this just another way to degrade Jews and an effort to destroy their culture?

Featuring: George ClooneyFrank Stokes
Matt DamonJames Granger
Bill MurrayRichard Campbell
Cate BlanchettClaire Simone
John GoodmanWalter Garfield
Jean Dujardin … Jean Claude Clermont
Hugh Bonneville … Donald Jeffries
more »
Director: George Clooney
Producer: Fox 2000 Pictures
Smokehouse Pictures
more »
Distributor: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures

“The Nazis pulled off the greatest art heist in history. These guys are stealing it back.”

For most people, “The Monuments Men” contains a cast of at least five highly familiar faces. It is a story about a platoon tasked with recovering art which was taken by Hitler’s socialist regime.

The worldviews expressed through story in “The Monuments Men” will not be found morally objectionable to a conservative audience. The enthusiasm to save artwork from destruction by Hitler’s regime is balanced immediately with statements that life is more important than art. Eventually we may find ourselves persuaded that saving art is worth risking lives. This is not so different from risking lives entering space or inventing, or dedicating our time to the preservation of things men before us have worked for. It would be easy to be suspicious in this age of subjectivism coupled with frequent emphasis on symbolism that a story about saving art during such a horrific time as WWII would place its value above life, but that is not the case here and for that I tip my hat to director, writer and actor George Clooney.

There is the temptation of an affair in this movie. Nothing sexual happens, and there is almost nothing remotely sexual in this film, save some classical nude paintings and nude statues which are not highly emphasized by the camera. However, an inappropriate situation is created when a man attends a lady’s house, putting himself in temptation’s way. Certainly, within the story, there is good reason for him to be there—would we expect any less? His fidelity is honorable in the end. That does not change the nuances of story and the lingering contemplative of a potential affair.

My opinions: I found this movie lightly entertaining, mostly clean, unexciting and inadequately engaging. This treatment of the story is just way too mellow for my liking. For that matter, the sad aspects are not sad enough. This is compounded by a soundtrack which creates awkward moments which detracts from the emotional landscape rather than adding to it. I am not sorry that I paid a late night price to see “The Monuments Men,” but I might have been, had I seen it at prime time, in a newer theater. I would rent it, but not around nap time.

There are a couple of moving emotional moments, but I believe I created them myself, out of my own appreciation for what the movie was attempting to create or should have created. This film did not give the story it was based on enough credit. The scenarios are potentially engaging, but the drama is constricted, and the personalities of Bill Murray and George Clooney have a lot more to offer than they gave us.

I would like to say that families can benefit from the enrichment of seeing this story come to life, but it doesn’t do it justice. Matt Damon’s character was one of the more engaging, but it fell asleep as well. This movie is a sleepy, long-shot version of a potentially exciting story, worth seeing on a rainy afternoon.

Smoke, smoke, smoke. Nearly everybody smoked back then, right? Well, that’s true among some groups. I don’t have a hard time believing that art curators and soldiers were among them. This is historically accurate and subtly humorous in what I’m guessing is an ‘accidentally on purpose’ sort of way—because there is an incredible amount of cigarette smoking in this movie. There is a presence of alcohol as well, though not a lot—and there is no drunkenness.

The violence in this movie is very sedate. There is some shooting, but very little heart racing. At least twice, we see someone receive a bullet wound that results in death. The views are not graphic. They are more along the lines of dramatic scenes, meant to portray some of the heroism, and some of the sadness of the situations.

The Lord’s name is used as profanity, as in G*d-d***, and Jesus is used as an expletive several times. Surprisingly, this actually makes up the majority of profane language—there is little more.

It was rated PG-13 for images of war violence and smoking. My guess is it was more the later than the former. There isn’t much violence in it.

Violence: Moderate to heavy / Profanity: Moderate—“G*d-d*mn” (6), “Jesus Christ” (2), “Jesus” (2), “Oh G*d” (1), “God” (1), “hell” (11), “damn” (2), s-words (6), SOB (1) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—I personally enjoyed this movie. But I’m a history buff of WWII. A major mistake was made in the marketing of this film. The previews/trailers show virtually every funny dialog and action scene from the movie. So, if you head into the movie setting up expectations from the previews, and looking to the key actors (who have a long list of dynamic roles) to have some great on-screen chemistry with humorous, engaging results… you will be sorely disappointed. Expect a very slow moving, very methodical documentary type of movie.

I appreciate Clooney’s dedication to bring this wonderful story to life, but I just wish it was done with a little more energy, drama, and fast-paced dialog. I could hear several people leaving the theater, disappointed at expecting something more. If you are an avid fan of WWII historical topics you will probably enjoy this movie, and if not… probably not so much.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Ken, age 48 (USA)
Positive—A “feel-good” movie that is immensely satisfying, “The Monuments Men” has excellent acting and cinematography, with a script that has both wit and humor. It is continually presenting a reverence for life in the midst of death, and compassion in the midst of chaos.

Regrettably, the Lord’s name is used irreverently in a couple of GDs and Holy s… ts, and a “Christ” that is probably not intended as a brief supplication, but there is a blissful lack of sex, F-words and other profanities.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Brian Schacht, age 67 (Canada)
Positive—The reviewer of this movie made VERY light of the artwork nudity in this movie—the camera does linger three or four times on this old artwork that contains nudity—and more than just a glimpse! So—I was disappointed that the official reviewer was “mistaken” about how minimal this was! Just be aware if this is something you want to avoid. Otherwise—the movie was very good.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Paulette, age 49 (USA)
Positive—I found the subject matter to be very interesting, as it is loosely based on the real events documented in Robert Edsel’s book: The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. As entertainment, it fails to reach great heights, but those who find the rescuing of art treasures in the closing months of WWII interesting will be engaged.

Smoking is very prevalent, but partly offset by a joke where a horse is offered a cigarette but snorts and trots away. Using the Lord’s name as profanity is the most offensive aspect of the movie, which in other ways is morally sound to an extent not found in many modern movies, especially the lack of sexual activity and the fidelity to his wife of James Granger (Matt Damon).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Kenod, age 68 (Australia)
Positive—Wonderfully delightful, feel-good film. Wonderful cast, storyline and pace. I was amazed by some of the reviews on here, it wasn’t slow or dull in any way. It had the perfect pace for a story of this type and actually quite exciting I found. I loved the cast; what an ensemble! I particularly loved the elderly actor they chose to play George Clooney at the end of the film—wonderful choice, as he does actually look like him. Brilliant all round—rare to watch a move like that with so little to offend a Christian.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Dalia, age 40 (United Kingdom)
Positive—Just bought a copy of this movie on DVD. I'd wanted to see it since I first saw the previews before it came to the theater. But, as usual, I ended up waiting. I'm glad to say, I found it well worth the wait. In my opinion, this movie was given unfairly negative reviews by the critics. It was by no means perfect. But, it certainly wasn't the stinker some reviews led me to believe it would be.

The action takes place near the end of WWII. The Nazi's had stolen some of the most famous works of art, with the intent to destroy them. A group of 7 men were given the seemingly impossible mission to track them down, and restore them to their rightful places. In the course of the movie, the characters form strong bonds with each other, which makes it that much more poignant when characters, and I don't think I'm giving anything away since it does take place during a war, die. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jared, age 33 (USA)

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