The Monuments Men

Year: 2014
Studio: Sony
Director: George Clooney
Writer: George Clooney/Grant Heslov
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Cate Blanchett

I remember being excited about this movie when I first heard about it, then deciding not to bother when I heard the bad reviews. Since then Gorgeous George has had another movie (Suburbicon), which has also been poorly received and flopped at the box office, and they're not the first movies from the Clooney production stable (even aside from the ones he's directed) to fail creatively – just look at The Men Who Stare at Goats.

So I don't think it's unreasonable to posit the hypothesis that no matter how beloved George Clooney is by the public, no matter how many tabloids he helps move, what a good shepherd of talent he is or how magnetic a movie star he is, he might simply suck as a director.

The reviews you might have heard were all completely right. It's a wacky crime caper and a serious drama about the dangers of culture dying to the extent humans are willing to destroy the art of those they conquer, and those two stories (let alone the disparate tones they require) just don't fit together, the whole thing feeling like a lacklustre attempt to hammer a square peg in a round hole. As soon as you're ready to laugh at a joke a lead character dies (this is a war story, Clooney seems to be reminding us) and you're miserable.

It's based on the true story of a squad of art historians and academics who advanced right behind the forward troops after D-Day, trying to rescue artworks stolen and spirited away by the Nazis as they sacked Europe.

The cast list has the makings of not just a comedy classic but an incredible movie – starring with Clooney is Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Bon Balaban, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett and Jean Dujardin – so the most amazing thing is how tired and drab it all is.

There's no comic zing between anyone involved and no energy, and these are actors with real comic as well as dramatic chops. Watch for a scene of good natured banter between Murray and Balaban's characters that should be worthy of endless replays but feels so stillborn it might as well be an acting workshop between two novices.

There was a subplot within the first hour about one of their number betraying the group (or something, I couldn't really follow what was going on), and I turned it off an hour in, feeling like I couldn't possibly have missed anything else worth seeing. I never thought I'd do that with a Bill Murray movie, let alone the other talent here.

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