The Monuments Men - Online Review

'Clooney could have been reigned in by a producer but wasn't, resulting in a movie that, whilst variable, at least has his old-Hollywood style all over it'

The fact that Leatherheads was the George Clooney film which most readily sprung to mind during the course of his latest, The Monuments Men, might go some way to backing up Clooney's critics, who have decried this film as a tonal disaster. In a World War Two Drama-cum-Comedy, is the first thing you really want to be thinking about a knockabout period Sports film?

Like Leatherheads though, which does have its problems, tone is but a part of the whole, some of which works independently and in tune with the style Clooney was going for. As with his American Football film, Clooney could have been reigned in by a producer but wasn't, resulting in a movie that, whilst variable, at least has his old-Hollywood style all over it. At risk of stepping into full-on Clooney-apologist territory: it's a good thing that not everyone makes films like this, but I'm happy that at least someone does, and that someone may as well be Clooney.

That said, the director doesn't help himself by fragmenting his narrative from the very start, spreading characters around in a scattershot manner that doesn't help his focus, tonal or otherwise. Quite apart from the fact that his story rather liberally allows all of his characters to wander around occupied France with abandon, the difference in the tales they end up telling sometimes doesn't gel. James Granger (Matt Damon), for example, seems to be on a will-they-won't-they love arc with Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett, utterly wasted) in Paris, whilst Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) engage in a bit of a period Buddy Comedy and Stokes (Clooney) and Sam (Dimitri Leonidas) come to terms with some of the harsher realities of war.

It doesn't take a genius to see that all of that doesn't quite fit with its relative other parts, whilst Phedon Papamichael's bright palette adds to the feeling that you're watching some sort of music hall production model. The knockabout laughs and gentle jappery between Murray and Balaban don't gel with the more serious stuff elsewhere and, occasionally, it feels as though the former has been shoehorned in to lighten the mood. A scene with Murray, Balaban and a German soldier arrives from nowhere, one of a handful of instances that showcase the occasionally dreadful editing: not good in a film that is trying to manage very separate story lines.

In those story lines though, Clooney finds enough to ensure that his film remains interesting, if never inspiring. Murray and Balaban do produce laughs, the director has his typical charm in front of the camera, and does well to pair himself with Leonidas, and simple support from people like John Goodman keep you interested. The only real failure is Damon and Blanchett's arc, which perks up the minute the former rejoins the rest of his gang. Perhaps that might be a signpost to what Clooney should have done with this all along. In a narrative that starts by getting the boys back together again, breaking them up seems to be a bit of an ill-judged jumping off point.

The Monuments Men was playing on Blinkbox.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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