Monuments Men, George Clooney, and Europe.

In The Monuments Men, George Clooney just saved Europe, but if you were to look around Switzerland, it would seem like he already had.

The film, based on a true story and book by Robert Edsel, follows a group of mostly Americans who try to save historic art – and by extension their culture – from both sides during World War II. They are especially motivated to save the art from the Nazis who were said to be under orders to destroy large collections if Hitler was to be killed.

The charm of the movie also comes from the true aspect of the story which is these were professionals in the art community. They weren’t soldiers. They weren’t young enough to be soldiers. They were not especially fit to be soldiers. It also makes it possible to say the phrase, “Bill Murray Nazi movie.”

Along with Murray, John Goodman was cast with serious actors of Matt Damon, George Clooney, and Cate Blanchett. While both Goodman and Murray have shown skill in dramatic roles, their casting here was to bring their general silly personas.

Which brings to the tonal issues of the film. It’s a hard to bring about an evenness to a somewhat silly World War II film. Clooney, as director, has struggled with tone in the past. Leatherheads never reached that Coen Brothers level of zaniness Clooney was clearly going for. On the other hand, Good Night and Good Luck was successful enough to get into¬† the rarefied air of Oscar conversations. Meanwhile, Confessions of a Dangerous Minds is one of’s favorite films.

The Monuments Men certainly won’t be considered when award season approaches. The question the movie presents is: is that fair?

We have a certain expectation now. When World War II movies come out it is either Oscar movies or bust.

In that calculation, The Monuments Men would have been a failure. The movie wasn’t without flaws, either. Early on it looked like there were a lot of effects that did not look real. There was also some overly old-timey dialogue.

The concerns were small though compared to the weightiness of the project. Clooney clearly wanted to ask the question: How many lives is it worth to lose to save some art? What if that art was the symbol of the Catholic Church? You get the idea.

In that sense, the movie is not an Oscar movie, but it is not a bust either. It almost feels like a World War II movie made by Disney or like a network television station. They wanted to tell an interesting story, but only wanted it to be dark enough to establish that the stakes were real. In that sense, it is also screenable to a younger audience.

There has to be something salvageable in that endeavor. Especially, when in the process you get to see Bill Murray point a gun at a Nazi.


Meanwhile, here is an article wrote in the summer of 2012 about all of the advertisements featuring Clooney in Switzerland. considers what it says about us in the eyes of Europeans if they were to consider Clooney our ambassador.

The truth is with a house in Italy and his having made several movies in Europe, the admiration appears to be mutual.


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