The Monuments Men — Christian Movie Review!
Based on a true story, when President Roosevelt asks a middle-aged New York art expert Frank Stokes (George Clooney) to infiltrate war-torn Europe and save valuable art pieces from the Nazis, Frank forms a team of other experts to help him. After enduring basic training, this out-of-place platoon of non-military intellectuals find themselves over their heads as they risk their lives to save the great masterpieces of Western civilization from both the vengeful Nazis on the verge of defeat and the marauding Russians racing to beat America to Berlin. The film’s all-star cast includes such Hollywood veterans as George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John G
oodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, and Bob Balaban.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content: Nothing — unless you count the scantily clad women that we see drawn on the sides of war planes (as was the custom in WWII) or the painting that portrays female nudity in the form of classic art.
Violence/Gore: It’s PG-13 war violence, which means a fair amount of people get shot, and we see the gunshot wounds bleeding profusely in a few scenes; but it is not graphic nor gory as you might see in R-rated war movies like Saving Private Ryan.
Language: Lots of mild profanity (s-words, d-words, hell, etc.) and a noticeable amount of characters taking God’s name in vain. Frankly, it got tiresome hearing them exclaim, “God bleep it!” every time something bad happened. No f-words.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: A few scenes that show drinking. Lots and lots of “historical smoking,” as they call it, because soldiers in WWII did smoke lots and lots of cigarettes.
Frightening/Intense Content: Typical war suspense where you’re never really sure if violence is going to break out at any given moment. You never really trust any quiet scenes because war movies tend to make things explode suddenly or have people get shot just when everything seems peaceful and non-threatening.
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
It’s a fantastic story idea, and it’s based on a true story, which makes it fascinating to watch, but, honestly, it was a little boring. This appalled me. Why? Because it is such an amazing premise for a war movie, and it stars some of the best actors in Hollywood. And they billed it as “the greatest treasure hunt in history.” Not only that, but because it’s based on a true story, there really was an epic treasure hunt that took place in WWII. It was captivating to think about as I stood in line to see the film. I was disappointed when I found myself yawning at several points in the movie. I was expecting something much much better.
The main problem was that it rushed frantically through character development and plot details. I didn’t really get a feel for the characters. It was like seeing a very quick pencil sketch of someone as opposed to seeing a photograph. In addition, the plot details were scattered and spewed from the screen like confetti. Everything was rushed and fragmented. It felt like the movie had ADHD. It awkwardly lingered on scenes that should’ve been cut short, and it zipped through scenes that should’ve been carefully unpacked in greater detail. I think the film bit off more than it could chew. It was trying to cover an extraordinary amount of historical detail in a short amount of time. I also wish George Clooney and Matt Damon would’ve created personalities for their characters that had more separation from their personalities in many of their other movies. There were times when it seemed like we were watching Danny Ocean and Linus from Ocean’s 11 — but dressed up in WWII uniforms. Come on guys, give your character an accent at least or a personality quirk that makes them stand out from the rest of your films. Cate Blanchett, Bob Balaban, and Bill Murray were definite stand-outs. I loved every scene they were in.
The movie does have its moments though and some beautiful ones at that. The scene where Bill Murray’s character gets a package from home is one of the most moving scenes I’ve ever seen in a war movie. I would go back and watch the movie again just for that scene. Bill Murray (and the director and writers) should get some kind of award or recognition just for that moment alone. It’s too bad the Oscars don’t give out awards for individual scenes. That could really open up the field. Just because critics pan a movie doesn’t mean there isn’t great art in it — even if just for a few spellbinding moments.
Although the character development was thin in some places, the film did manage to make you care for some of the characters. It also made you feel the weight of their sacrifices. It took physical wounds seriously. It wasn’t cartoonish war violence. When a guy got shot, you could feel the way the physical wound did damage to his mind and emotions as the man tried to process what had just happened to his body. It wasn’t gory, yet the violence felt real in a different kind of way — in a psychological and emotional way.
I enjoyed the way the movie gives you a whirlwind tour of some beautiful places in Europe — including a breathtaking castle. I would probably watch this movie again just to see the scenery. It’s sort of like a mini-European vacation but with gun battles and famous works of art thrown in.
Redemptive Value and Conclusion
Character after character chooses the good of others over their own interests. They risk their lives to save others, and they are honorable about returning all art to their rightful owners. They’re honorable in other ways too. A married soldier refuses to have a one-night stand with a woman while he is on duty, even though it would be a very easy secret to keep.
The movie poses thought-provoking questions: would you be willing to die to save a work of art? Is one man’s life worth a masterpiece that hangs in a museum? How valuable are the creative expressions of people who, after all, are made in the image of God? The answer is not cut and dry, and the movie — though it certainly does lean in favor of a certain answer — looks at the question from different viewpoints.
One thing is certain: the next time I go to a museum and see an artistic masterpiece, I will thank God for the privilege of seeing it. It is not something to be taken for granted. Why? Because people really did die in WWII to save works of art so that people like you and me could go to museums and experience some of the greatest artistic achievements ever made. It’s not something to be taken lightly. This movie didn’t execute its story idea like I had hoped, but it did accomplish one thing: it made me see the value of art (and the history of World War II) in a new way.
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