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Review: Monuments Men

 Directed by George Clooney, released on 7 February 2014. 

Directed by George Clooney, released on 7 February 2014. 

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I saw his film when it first opened here in Hong Kong and like most others I imagine, was so excited about it. It almost feels like an ensemble film because there are just so many bankable stars. Plus, the premise of the plot is amazing: the real life story of a special team of museum curators, architects, and artists going to Germany during WWI to retrieve stolen art from the Nazis. As a history buff (or massive nerdy history obsessed loser), I nearly cried just reading about the plot. It's this passion that has really got me itching to write this review because it's really one of the worst films I've seen in recent times. 

Firstly, let's just begin by saying that George Clooney wrote and directed the film. This has nothing to do with preconceived notions about the film but after watching it, you realise that he is indeed a silver fox, can kind of direct, and cannot write - not even a little. My cringe-face persisted throughout the entire film. The writing is so cliched that it made legitimately good actors like Matt Damon talk like Channing Tatum in a romcom. It even made Cate Blanchett look like an absolute joke. It was also shocking how such a historically fascinating story can be turned into a painfully long 60s commercial with really unnatural dialogue. 

Maybe I should point out some specifics as to why felt this way. One thing that the viewer catches on quite early into the film is that the Germans had their own song. Whenever a Nazi officer (and later Russians too) came on, the soundtrack would inevitably turn very menacing - basically a lot of cellos and tubas going dun-dun-DUN-DUN-DUNNNN! The only other film where I thought this cinematic feature was more obvious was Spartacus.

Also, the plot of the film is about risking one's life over something that most others would view as insignificant. But to the 'monuments men', art - and its value to humanity - was worth just that. So the theme here is sacrifice. We get it. But for some reason, George insists that he drives this point home. Sacrifice. And for something that appears, on the surface as meaningless. THEY SACRIFICED THEMSELVES TO PRESERVE HUMANITY! This translated to long shot scenes of out-of-the-blue deaths, overly angry officers who simply will not sacrifice their men to aid in their cause, and even a few Holocaust references that, once again, came off as forced rather than poignant. 

Don't see this film, just don't. Especially don't see if you like history or George Clooney or good acting or any acting for that matter. If you like If it had been executed properly, then it could have been a really beautiful film that subtly depicted the strength of humanity even during wartime. It makes me feel better that the film only received 34% on Rotten Tomatoes; so there is hope yet.