While not an epic disaster, the film is uninvolving and lethargic. It simply fails to hold you throughout its two-hour runtime
The Monuments Men is an interesting case study, because it's a film that stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett, and in spite of them, it still manages to be a languid, uninteresting film.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong with The Monuments Men because it seems to have so many elements going for it – the great cast, the World War II setting, direction by Clooney himself, a decently big budget and Grant Heslov in the producer's chair.
With so many positive aspects, it would generally take an awful script to undo a film's advantages but even that doesn't seem to be the case here. The film is not an epic disaster by any means; it's just uninvolving and too lethargic in its pace. It's not that one expected an action-packed thriller, but unlike in well-made WW II dramas like The Good Shepherd, this film simply fails to keep you intrigued throughout its two-hour runtime.
A still from 'The Monuments Men'
The film is inspired by true events and chronicles the lives of a bunch of soldiers, including Frank Stokes (Clooney), James Granger (Damon) and Richard Campbell (Murray), who are on a covert mission to recover stolen works of art during World War II.
The first half hour of the film is quite fun, and Clooney fleshes out his plot in wonderful old-school manner with heavy emphasis on atmosphere. It's only in the second act that the film begins to meander into less-than-interesting episodic subplots and falters slowly.
Despite starring talented performers, the characters are shockingly one dimensional and underwritten. You don't feel for any of them because they're either fake or insipid. Even Damon, despite his charm and flair, appears stiff and forced when the film focuses on his character.
We're led to believe that the film will lead to a colossal climax with all of the characters colliding in some big way, and it just doesn't happen. It's not a good feeling when the payoff to an extremely large buildup doesn't arrive in a satisfactory manner. It's neither an action film, nor a good drama, nor an adventure ride, nor a thriller or a mystery – and the problem is that The Monuments Men tries to be all of those things at various moments.
Those who've seen Good Night and Good Luck, and The Ides of March will know that Clooney is capable of directing good films, this one seems to be a slight detour in his glowing filmography, and it will be forgotten in a month's time.