A film that had to be made… but not like this

download (8)GEORGE CLOONEY is one of the best actors of his generation. From his early career in ER through to Michael Clayton and The American,  he’s gone from strength to strength. However, his prowess as a man behind the camera is yet to hit the heights of his acting portfolio.

The film itself is extremely watchable, because of the scale of the story and task in hand. ‘The Monuments Men Operation’ was commissioned by President FDR to recover art stolen by the Nazis in preparation for the opening of Hitler’s museum to himself in his Austrian home town of Linz. In total, more than 5,000,000 artefacts and pieces of art ended up being recovered and re-instated in their original places, including The Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo.

The story is worthy of a cinematic tribute; but I can’t help but ask if it could have been told better. Clooney’s character Frank Stokes plays the leader of the operation, but the arrogance of Clooney to cast himself as a lead in his own picture is clear – he leaves himself to discover Michelangelo’s masterpiece in one of the final scenes. The film lacked the historical basis of Matt Damon’s previous war roles such as Saving Private Ryan, where you were thrown straight into the mix with the fight scenes from Normandy.

The story had little emotion, and the short-lived scenes of death are slightly disrespectful to the sacrifices of these real-life soldiers who laid down their lives for some of the greatest pieces of art the world has ever seen. If you want to see a war movie with little to no drama in it, this is for you. The story, I repeat, is astounding, but is let down by the weakness of drama. I doubt that there is much cinematic license in this film, but the American soldiers are treated as heroes, with the foreigners in Hugh Bonneville (Donald Jeffries) and Jean DuJardin (Jean-Claude Clermont) killed off incredibly early, so much so that it leaves the rest of the film flat as a pancake. Has an Oscar Winner been killed off as early as this in cinematic history? The cast is star-studded, but the best performance by far is given by Sam Epstein who joins the mission as a Jew who fled Karlsruhe, Germany in 1938, before the outbreak of war.

This years BAFTA- and Golden Globe-winning lead actress Cate Blanchett plays Frenchwoman and museum curator Claire Simon, but it would be a gross misjudgement to say that this film undermines all the good work she has done this awards season with Woody Allen in Blue Jasmine. The casting is correct, but I feel that the film is largely undermined by the fact that Clooney wrote, directed and produced the film. He has clearly left himself over-stretched, and the film is left feeling equally as thin.

Clooney’s ploy will be to try and make as much money from this film to finance one of his great B-film mould pictures. That’s one reason for us to be happy with this picture, despite the fact I sat watching this, incredibly bored. It is, yet again, a case of a large, star-studded cast playing hot potato with the script and storyline – completely dropping the ball.

I’d struggle to even give this film two stars out of five. One and a half at maximum.

The Monuments Men is now on in the Commodore Cinema.