Friday, July 4, 2014

The Monuments Men Review

Welcome to The Month of Misses, where I'm going to spend all of July reviewing some games and movies that I missed out on over the past six months! Some of them are good, some are bad, and some of them are right down the middle. And while we're at it, Happy Fourth of July everyone! Today is a day to celebrate America's independence from Great Britain and to celebrate everything that America has done since. So since we have a big holiday today as well as a historical movie to review, that means it's timely! Even though the movie came out in the beginning of February... Well I'm calling it timely, so it counts!
Before getting into the review proper, I might as well divulge on why I chose this movie and why I didn't see it in the first place. You see, historical dramas really aren't my thing. While I do love history and everything that it entails, I always find it difficult to enjoy historical dramas because they're so entrenched in their respective histories. When I hear about a movie like Lincoln, I don't get excited because I already know the story behind it. I'm already aware of what the movie is about and unless the execution is really unique or interesting, then I don't go nuts over it. Now if the history in question was something more obscure and not common knowledge, like say the story behind the formation of Islam and the inner conflicts that quickly divided up the Islamic faith, then I can get behind it! Talking about slavery in America or the Civil War or World War II doesn't light my world on fire. So when I heard that this was a historical movie about World War II, I really couldn't muster up any feelings about it. In fact, I saw the movie on a complete lark. I was on vacation and I just happened to find a copy lying around, so I gave it a whirl. 

The Monument's Men was a peculiar ride for me, mostly because I didn't know how to feel about it. It features an all star cast that includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett, who are trying to steal art that was stolen by Hitler during WWII before he destroys it all. The premise is simple and has a few characters pair off an go on their own separate ways. Every member of the Monuments Men, titled that because they're trying to save historical works, has their own distinct character and every scene between them can probably stand on its own as a little adventure. There's a scene where John Goodman and Jean Dujarden are being attacked by a shooter in an abandoned building, and when Dujarden gets inside to see who was shooting, he discovers it's just a child, and Goodman and him shrug it off and leave. It's never mentioned again, but it's strangely enjoyable. 

Keep moving along. Nothing to see here. 
That's kind of how I can safely describe the movie. It's very segmented in terms of plot, and instead puts a focus on the various situations each character gets themselves into. It's a strange combination of Inglorious Basterds and your standard by the books WWII movie, but I can't put my finger on why. While it does draw from classic WWII movies like Saving Private Ryan and Letters from Iwo Jima, its stands as its own movie with its own identity. It's also a pretty funny movie too, though that's mostly due to the inclusion of several well known comedians in the main cast. For example, another odd scene had Bill Murray sitting around and smoking with a German soldier who had a gun pointed to his head. Then they start to break out into a little song when the mood lightens up. The tone is just plain weird throughout. 

And yet, despite all of that, I think that I really like this movie. I can't say why I like it since it's an odd, oftentimes baffling film, but I really enjoyed it. If I was to choose one element though that sold me on the movie, it would be just how much I cared about each of the characters. All of them are very likeable, and without saying much, not all of the seven Monuments Men make it out of Germany alive, and I was actually a bit surprised at how much I cared about when they died. It didn't tug on my heart strings as much as The Fault in Our Stars, but that's because Fault, for better or worse, was designed to pull on your heart strings. You went into the movie expecting to feel sad about what happens to the characters. Here, you were never expected to feel sad for the characters, and that just highlights how well done it is when you do feel something for their deaths. 

I can probably epitomize the heart of this movie with yet another scene. And I'm fully aware that this is the third scene I've talked about from the movie, but I think it's alright since none of these scenes affect the plot in any substantial ways. They're only here to either be comedic or expand upon characters. In this scene, it's Christmas time in Germany, and Bill Murray receives a care package from his daughter, and included with it is a record for him. He doesn't have a record playing to play it on, so he says that he'll listen to it later on. His friend and fellow Monuments Men Preston Savitz, played by Bob Balaban, uses their camp's sound system to play the record to him. It's off his daughter singing a Christmas song to him as we see Bill Murray slowly break down the more he listens to his daughter sing. That's how you do character development. So dialogue, just complete reaction from Bill Murray. 

That package gives me the feels...
Funnily enough, when this movie was first released, it didn't get that many good reviews. Most reviewers didn't really care for its slow pace and its numerous scenes that don't connect to the overall plot, but I would tend to disagree with them. It's that tried and true phrase "It's not about the destination, but the journey". At the end of the day, this would just be another WWII movie. It would be by the books and not particularly all that interesting, especially since it revolves around the soldiers who don't go into combat. It would be boring the sit through if it was done like every other movie about WWII, but it doesn't do that though. It has you become invested with the characters and their interactions with each other with the overall goal of protecting art and the importance of it. It even gets to the point where WWII becomes more of a setting than a defining plot point. After I saw this movie, I asked myself "Could this movie take place in any other war besides WWII? Is it defined by Hitler and the Nazis?" The answer is no, and that's why this movie is so good to me. 

It's a movie that can take place in any war and any setting, because it's the characters that make the movie memorable and it's what they do that makes it much more lasting. Wars and conflicts will come, but we need to protect the art and culture of each civilization or else it will be lost forever. That message is prevalent throughout any scene of The Monuments Men and is what will stick with viewers after the movie is done. The movie did well at the box office, making more than double its box office, and I hope that it's message will stick around for a long time. 

If you couldn't tell from the last several paragraphs, this movie is probably my biggest surprise of the year so far. I went into this movie expecting nothing, but instead it gave me something moving that speaks more about the power of art and culture than about war. Messages about war have been said numerous times, but very few messages have been said about the importance of art. I recommend everyone to go and at least check this movie out. It's out on DVD now and doesn't cost that much, plus you can probably stream it or rent it from pretty much every online service now. Do it, because a movie like this deserves to be seen. I give The Monuments Men a well deserved 4 out of 5 stars.


Next time for the Month of Misses, Kirby Triple Deluxe for the 3DS. See you then.

No comments:

Post a Comment