The Monuments Men | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Monuments Men

A crowd-pleasing cast just barely floats this World War II tale about saving artwork

Whose art? Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett
Whose art? Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett

Art is often among the casualties of war, whether the destruction is willful or collateral. And so it was during World War II, when much of Europe — with its vast repositories of public and private art — was a battlefield. Then there were the Nazis, who valued classical art enough to loot it on a massive scale.

How some of this endangered art was saved and located is the focus of George Clooney's dramedy, The Monuments Men. Set in 1944, it takes a fairly leisurely spin in which a specially tasked group of U.S. soldiers try to locate lost artwork before it is lost to the chaos of the war's wind-down. (The story is based on real events, also covered in the 2007 documentary The Rape of Europa.)

Despite a death or two, Monuments feels more like a low-key caper, with the horrors of war a distant background; it's enjoyable enough, but there are few surprises — either because you know your history, or because the story hits every expected beat. It's buoyed almost entirely by its crowd-pleasing cast, in which each actor furnishes a signature performance: dapper Clooney, capable Matt Damon, sharp Cate Blanchett, and deadpan comic-reliefers John Goodman, Bill Murray and Bob Balaban. Even our Allies are familiar souls: Frenchman Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and for the British, Hugh Bonneville, of Downton Abbey

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