Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: 'Monuments Men' is an interesting story told wrong

Surprisingly bland, The Monuments Men fails to contribute a fresh perspective to an arguably exhausted genre, the World War II movie.

Frank Stokes (George Clooney) wants to rescue European artwork from the Nazis and return the pieces to their rightful owners. He decides to assemble a team, approaching James Granger (Matt Damon) and other art experts he thinks might be helpful to his mission. With the aid of Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), Stokes and his team race against time to find masterpieces before the Nazis can destroy them.

Despite an interesting twist on the World War II mission movie, the film, based on true events, falls flat. Clooney struggles as director to maintain a consistent tone, so the lighthearted moments distract from the serious messages.

Production designer James D. Bissell's accuracy in recreating the artwork and architecture of World War II Europe adds authenticity, but Phedon Papamichael's uninspired cinematography detracts from the look. Lifeless and devoid of style, the film relies on its equally disappointing story.

There are too many characters, and a couple of them die before the viewer can become attached. Limited by generic roles and labored comedy, the ensemble cast entertains less than expected.

Bob Balaban, John Goodman and Bill Murray give the strongest performances as the film's comic relief despite the predictable, overstated humor that plagues their dialogue. Blanchett also impresses as one of the more genuine and complete characters.

Episodic and choppy, the absence of a strong narrative arc prevents the film from forming a cohesive whole. The script by Grant Heslov and Clooney lacks urgency, an important aspect of any mission movie. The pacing feels too slow, so momentum never builds. The only tension comes when the characters encounter physical combat, but these scenes are short-lived, never given time to breathe or blossom.

Editor Stephen Mirrione relies on fading one shot into the next for the film to flow, and many scenes end abruptly. Other scenes that contribute nothing to the overall message or the story as a whole fill the runtime with excess.

The excellent score by Alexandre Desplat is one of the film's strengths, though the presence of such dominant music can overpower, diminishing the impact of some scenes.

In the end, The Monuments Men is an interesting story told completely wrong. The various elements, from an impressive cast to a beautiful score, never quite come together.

Mark Mukherjee is a senior at King High.

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