"Preserving Art from Tyrannical National Socialists"
What You Need To Know:
THE MONUMENTS MEN shows a different side of World War II and does so in a less cynical way than many war movies. While the movie tries to lighten the tone, it gets stuck between being a comedy and a drama. The mediocre script avoids character depth and pushes its themes using on-the-nose dialogue. There are some positive references to Christianity, because much of the art comes from old cathedrals. Also, the monuments men courageously fight for each other and show a brotherly bond that’s uplifting. However, THE MONUMENTS MEN has some strong foul language and war violence.
(BB, C, PP, ACAC, LL, V, N, A, D, M) Strong moral and Christian worldview, emphasizing fighting for your Christian culture and the art that represents those values, multiple scenes in churches and many shots of artwork pertaining to Christianity, plus strong patriotic themes of sacrifice, fighting for the soldiers around you, and fighting against National Socialist tyranny; 13 obscenities and nine strong profanities; comparatively mild war violence, but still present, two different men are shot in battle and bleed, a bombed town is shown; no sexual content, but a married man gets a little too close to a Frenchwoman, though nothing happens; the Ghent Alterpiece includes a nude painting of Adam and Eve that gets some screen time, and there’s upper male nudity when man takes shower; some light drinking and one man is a drunk, though shown this is shown negatively and he redeems himself; cigarettes; and, villains steal art and plan on destroying it when they start losing a war.
THE MONUMENTS MEN is a touching story with thematic significance. Based on a true story set near the end of World War II, leading art historian Frank Stokes (George Clooney) gives a presentation to the President about the importance of protecting pieces of art amid the current war. Stokes stresses that the destruction of art by Hitler’s National Socialists is the destruction of culture and society itself. Compelled, the President approves a small band of men, art experts, to go to the front lines of battle to protect priceless art and recover stolen artifacts.
The team includes James Granger (Matt Damon), architect Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), sculpture artist Walter Garfield (John Goodman), art dealer Jean Claude Clermont, art historian Preston Savitz, and a drunk Donald Jeffries looking for a fresh new start. After the middle-aged men struggle through basic training, they are sent overseas where their mission begins.
In order to cover more ground, the men separate. Granger travels to Paris where he meets up with Frenchwoman Claire Simone, a museum curator who looked after the art before the Germans came and took it all back to Germany. Claire is reluctant to help Granger, but he convinces her he truly does care about returning the art to the rightful owners.
Others travel to track down The Bruges of Madonna and The Ghent Altarpiece, some losing their life in the process. As the Hitler’s minions start to lose power, they become more desperate. Hitler signs an order decreeing that, if Germany falls, everything is to be destroyed, including the large collection of art they stole.
THE MONUMENTS MEN shows a different side of World War II and does so in a less cynical way than many war movies. The older men are cast very well. Each of them brings their own comedic and dramatic dynamic. While the movie does try to lighten the tone with goofy banter between characters and music that reminds one of the classic TV show HOGAN’S HEROES, the movie gets stuck between being a comedy and a drama. This is caused by a mediocre script that avoids depth of character and pushes its theme with dialogue that’s too much on the nose. There’s also a lack of urgency in the mission. The stakes aren’t really felt until the story’s climax.
That said, there are many great themes and moral and patriotic values in MONUMENTS MEN. The monuments men who volunteered to go to the fronts lines of battle showed sacrifice and bravery in order to preserve cultural significant pieces of art. While it’s stated that a soldier’s life is worth more than art, the emphasis of protecting the art isn’t so much on the art pieces themselves, but on the values for which they stand. Both the Madonna and the Ghent altarpiece were church relics. Also, many of the European nation’s cultures hinge on art made by Christians for churches, whether paintings, architecture, music, or statues. Though not explicitly explored, the movie can’t escape the Church’s influence on art. There are multiple references to both Christian and Jewish culture, and a few scenes take place inside churches. Additionally, the monuments men courageously fight for each other and show a brotherly bond that’s uplifting.
These positive aspects are mitigated by some strong profanities, some war violence, and some revealing paintings. So, caution is advised.