Review: ‘The Monuments Men’ (M) ***

I’VE read much about World War II including the small Allied (mainly Brit) units that went behind the Axis front line to administer well-deserved discomfort.

Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett in "Monuments Men".

Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett in “Monuments Men”.

Some were later filmed after war’s end. To my memory, the film most respectful of narrative validity was “Ill Met By Moonlight”, the Powell/Pressburger dramatisation about kidnapping the Wehrmacht commander on Crete, a cocking of British snoot, psy-war on a minor scale, a real thriller and fun to watch.

Another thriller was “The Train”, about resistance efforts to foil a German officer’s plan to despatch the Jeu De Palme museum’s collection to Germany.

That event gets passing mention in George Clooney’s film about how a small unit of art historians and conservators hopped the Allied front to find paintings, sculpture and objets d’art that the Nazis had stolen from private collections and homes.

Calling themselves the monuments men, photographed results of their work backgrounding the film’s end credits give Clooney’s film credibility. The film’s meat comes from a book by Robert Edsel, who in 2006 co-produced “The Rape Of Europa”, a doco interviewing some of the Germans actually involved.

Clooney’s screenplay adapting Edsel may play a little fast and loose with the monuments men’s daily fortunes, but nearly seven decades later, a little liberty with reality may be forgiven. They are all dead now.

So it’s a buddy movie. Clooney playing the CO gets to drive the captured kugelwagen. John Goodman is an academic enjoying the changed professional ambience. Matt Damon plays a restorer who for some reason alone of the group got commissioned. Cate Blanchett comes close to stealing the film as a mousy French woman who’s clandestinely been recording the stolen works and their destinations.

Structurally, the film is a bit bitty. Old soldiers are no longer on hand to advise film-makers about realism and its recreations of wartime scenes and events may dismay serious historians.

At all cinemas

 

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