Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: The Monuments Men (2014)

Movie Poster
So, I'm doing reviews on and off lately. School has gotten pretty hectic lately, so there are some weeks where I don't have much time to watch/write anything, so just bear with me for a little while. But this week, I do have a review for you all.

A week or so ago, my parents and I got to see The Monuments Men, which is about how the Nazis stole precious art from various places around Europe. It seemed interesting and since we all like history and were looking for something to do over the weekend, my parents and I went to see it. I was surprised to see that Bill Murray was in this movie, considering he tends to do comedic roles, but I also saw that Hugh Bonneville was in this movie as well, so I looked forward to his acting.

Set towards the end of WWII, The Monuments Men follows a group of civilian men that accompanies the Allied forces to Europe. Their mission: to recover pieces of art that have been stolen by the Nazis to fill Hitler's intended Fuehrer Museum. Their goal is to preserve the culture and history that has been built up in Europe over centuries from destruction from the war and to collect the pieces and return them to their rightful owners before the Nazi destroy them.

The movie does contain recognizable actors, but they are mostly actors from Hollywood movies and not necessarily from period dramas.

Actor/ActressCharacterAlso Seen In
George ClooneyLt. Frank StokesOh Brother, Where Art Thou? as Everett McGill
Matt DamonLt. James Granger(Various Movies)
Bill MurraySgt. Richard CampbellGhostbusters as Dr. Peter Venkman
John GoodmanSgt. Walter GarfieldOh, Brother, Where Art Thou? as Big Dan Teague
Hugh BonnevilleMajor Donald JeffriesDownton Abbey as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham
Cate BlanchettClaire SimoneThe Lord of the Rings Trilogy as Galadriel

The story mainly follows the seven men who are in the group called The Monuments Men. These older gentlemen (four Americans, but one Englishman, one Frenchman, and one German) are curators, art experts, museum directors, and historians who are accepted into the military and undergo basic training to prepare themselves for the mission. There was great chemistry among the whole cast and they worked really well together. I loved this little exchange:
The Landmine Scene
Lt. Frank Stokes: What have you got?
James Granger: Stop, stop. I seem to have stepped on a land mine.
Lt. Frank Stokes: Why would you do something like that?
James Granger: It was a slow day.
[the others walk up]
Sgt. Walter Garfield: What have you got?
Lt. Frank Stokes: The Lieutenant here seems to have found himself on top of an unexploded mine.
Sgt. Walter Garfield: Why would you do that?
As you can see, while the time period and theme of this movie was serious, there was still enough humor in the film to keep the film from being too dark.

Lt. Granger (Left) and Lt. Stokes (Right)
The "leaders" of the group were Lt. Stokes and Lt. Granger. They were the two characters that received the most screen time. While there was some elements of comedy with both of their characters (for example, Lt. Granger's very poor French and French characters telling him to stop speaking French since he was butchering the language), they were still serious characters. There was almost a romance leading up to Lt. Granger (who is married) and Claire Simone, a spy for the resistance. Slight Spoiler If they had proceeded any further with it, I would have lost respect for Lt. Granger, but luckily, he remained true to his wife. End of Spoiler But you don't usually watch a war movie for the romance, so that part played a very small role.

Claire (Right) showing Lt. Granger some pieces of art
Claire was a decent character in her own right. Acting as a secretary for all the stolen art, she is also a spy whose brother was working for the resistance before being killed. She was reluctant to help the Monuments Men because she was worried that they would steal the art from the Nazis for themselves, but she does agree to help them when she is sure that they want to return the art to their original owners.

Major Jefferies (Middle) walking with Lt. Granger
and Lt. Stokes
Probably my favorite character in The Monuments Men was Major Jeffries (yes, probably because he's Robert from Downton Abbey). Major Jeffries was a character who had gotten in trouble with the law but was bailed out through the intersession of his father, who has some status in English society. Since, he has felt guilty over the incident and wanted to help as a way to atone, Major Jeffries joined the Monuments Men to help them recover the stolen art, particularly the Michelangelo's Madonna and Child in Bruges. Hugh Bonneville did a great job with the role Spoiler and I was upset when he died half-way through the movie. End of Spoiler I wish they had more scenes with him, but still, he was a good addition to the movie

Sargent Campbell (Left) and Private Savitz (Right)
There was a humorous pairing between Private Preston Savitz and Sargent Richard Campbell. Though Bill Murray, a comedian, was cast in a more serious movie/role, he still got enough of his humor into the part without it being inappropriate for the tone of the movie.  At the beginning of the film, the two men would verbally jab each other back and fourth to the point where you thought that they (or, at the very least, Private Savitz) hated each other. But as they worked together, you begin to realize that they jab each other like friends would jab each other: they didn't really mean it, but it was something they did as friends. By the end of the movie, they give each other a hug after the war ended and you can fully see that they had become friends throughout the whole thing.

I wasn't expecting a whole lot of scenery in this movie; I was expecting a lot of scenes in army tents where planning was to be done, maybe some museums... but was I wrong! While there are quite a few scenes in the army camps and there is an occasional museum, there is also a chance of seeing the sites around Europe, whether in the country or the city (and let's not forget churches where some of the art was before it was stolen). Some of the places had the scars of war on them (damaged buildings, dust, etc.), but there were other scenes that took place in places less affected by the war (such as some places in the city, and especially the country).

Claire in the nicest dress she had in the whole movie
The costuming isn't really much to speak of, but you don't usually watch a war movie for the costuming. Most of the costumes were either military uniforms or suits from the 1940s era. The character with the most costuming was probably Claire Simone. She was very plainly dressed throughout the entire movie, but she did have one nice dress (pictured here).

The music reminded me almost of the style John Williams composes in, but upon further research, I found out it wasn't John Williams who composed the music. It was Alexandre Desplat, who composed the music for The King's Speech. Some of the songs reminded me of music that you would expect from older war movies: not very dark, but a bit light with whistling.

Overall: 4/5
I don't got to the theater much anymore (let's face it, the quality of movies has gone down considerably in recent years), but this movie is definitely an exception. The bad reviews that this movie has been given were, I feel, unjustly given (unless people were looking for a blood and guts movie and didn't get it so they were upset). This is a really good movie that is almost like the way that they used to make movies... you know, back when movies were good. It's based on a true story, so while some things in it might have been artistic license, I still feel like I learned a little more history by viewing this movie. There was humor to keep the story from being too dark, but there wasn't too much to be inappropriate. So, in short, if you want to go to the theaters anytime soon, I recommend this movie. I wouldn't say that I was blown away by this movie, but I did enjoy it greatly and was glad that I saw it.

The film is rated PG-13 for some images of war violence and historical smoking. While there is quite a bit of smoking in the movie (as many people during WWII smoked), the war violence part I thought was an exaggeration. There were a couple people who got shot, but there was no excessive blood (the blood that I remember can be seen on the fabric of the person shot) and no guts. There is quite a bit of language (the "s" word was used an awful lot, but no "f" words), and I would have thought that that was the reason the movie was PG-13. If there weren't as many swears in the movie, I would have said the movie was PG instead of PG-13. Aside from the swearing, don't worry about the PG-13 rating.

The Monuments Men is in theaters now. It is rated PG-13 and runs for 118 minutes.


  1. This film did pique my interest though I've not read much about it. Just for the cast, it'd be worth seeing. Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth! Cannot wait to see it on DVD now. :)

  2. Thank you so much for the review! I haven't heard of this film before now, but it definitely sounds interesting! My family and I will have to look it up when it comes out on DVD!

  3. Now I want to see the movie! Thanks for the great review.

  4. Our family went to see this and enjoyed it very much. My husband and I both teach History at a Christian College, and I teach a course in the Era of the World Wars. For the life of me, I don't understand why it has not received better reviews. The movie tells a great true story--one which is important to know. I agree with your assessment (and I liked Hugh Bonneville's character best, too!) Thank you for posting about the movie.

  5. I saw this the day it came out. My family and I went as a special night out. I enjoyed it. Especially the scene you mentioned with the land mine.
    I liked it so much I used it for one of my school papers. It really left me considering just how much these men did for the Jews and their past.

    I reviewed it on my blog as well. I am hoping to get the chance to see it again soon.


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