The Monuments Men (2014)
It was the greatest art heist in history
Find yourself with a hankering for a world war 2 flick that's less depressing and war-like? Maybe wish Ocean's Eleven had a smaller cast and was set back in world war 2? Ever feel the burning desire to watch some people thwart Hitler by saving art? Well, today might be your lucky day, as this is exactly what Monuments Men promises! Now all we need to do is figure out we celebrate over the survival of art, or if we rather wish the german guy shot us (I promise you'll get that later).
World War 2 : the time when Hitler was flipping the world upside down and atrocities were committed against fellow man that cause grief on countries to this day. Amongst the things people of the time had to hate about Hitler was his wanton stealing (and eventual destruction) of art. No art was safe, being stolen as people were driven out of their houses and even from holy cathedrals. A professor back stateside can't stomach this any longer, and brings it up to military big-wigs that these things need to be defended and protected - because without art, you erase an entire history of accomplishments. The military hats bring up the blaring obvious counter-argument that all the able young men are already overseas, fighting the war - to which our lead professor responds by doing the only thing he possibly can - enlisting himself and starting his own team with permission from the president himself.
Our lead man puts together his ragtag team of art connoisseurs and after a brief stint of basic training, they are whisked off to the warfront. While most work their way to the frontlines, one man from the team is sent to france to meet with a curator who may know where all the art is being hidden. The job turns out to be a bit trickier than he thought, as she isn't particularly willing to believe the MMs goal is to return the art instead of keeping it, as the Soviets are. Back on the front, slowly working their way from location to location trying to find clues to the location of the art - and occasionally getting incredibly lucky finding truckloads of art captured by the rebels or their own army. As they get closer to the frontlines, however, things start heating up, and some of the team find themselves in the lines of fire.
Although the small victories are there, morale at times gets pretty low until they stumble across their first big success purely by accident. Stumbling across a once-member of the german forces who just so happens to have quite a few authentic pieces, they learn from a map that if they combine their clues they can get their first incredible lead. This starts their upward victory trend, which nets it's very own special surprises even they couldn't anticipate. Trouble arises during their ascent to art world justice however when Germany finds itself in defeat and without their leader - who recently passed orders to burn the bridges and destroy all the art should he die. Will the monuments men manage to save the remaining legendary art items before it's too late?
The film is shot quite well. Montages and pacing hold up pretty well, even through some of the slower moments, and the balance between humor and seriousness keeps things from getting too dark in a movie that's period was quite dark and gloomy. Although there isn't too many surprises as far as the plot really goes, there are moments within it that don't end quite as you expected too - and then some that do. That attempt to provoke thought is pretty obvious in places (particularly our exposition moments about how important art is), but I feel that the movie should mostly be enjoyable regardless of how much of your brain is really turned on while watching.
Actors do a fabulous job. Considering how many of them are seasoned actors, you wouldn't expect anything but excellence, and from body language to spoken dialogue things come off incredibly well. Surely, one of my favorite moments in the movie a scene from the trailer (also pictured below) in which two members are pinned down by sniper fire, arguing back and forth over who should be the distraction and who should take the enemy out. There are some subtitles thrown about - if a character should be speaking German or French, they are speaking those given languages - but it only helps cement that authentic feel.
Special effects wise, there isn't a whole lot going on here. The movie plays out much more as a drama then as an actual war movie, and the amount of gunfire or combat on screen is vastly outnumbered by the amount of jokes, art, and plotting. Theres a few minor explosions, and it's not anything to really be disappointed about, but most of the budget here went into the less-obvious things like set. Locations and scenery, as well as the art, all look splendid, and seeing the beach of Normandy without a sea of bodies fighting to survive is certainly something that you don't see in a lot of WW2 flicks.
All in all, the cast acting and mostly light-hearted nature of the movie leads me to say that it's at least worth a rent. For something set in WW2, it's actually lacking a lot of violence that could be put into it, and if anything comes off feeling much more about good morals and being decent humans than a lot of anti-war war movies someone may have watched. I'm not about to place wagers on how much of this movie is actually based on true events or a whatnot - as some of it seems pretty far fetched - but the inclusion of "based on" does help you try and get in the mind set of it being real, which helps get attached to characters a little better in the time you see them on screen. Check it out if you see it, it has some laughs and a pretty decent drama presentation.