Reel time: Monument Men

Sarah Lentz, Staff Writer

What if Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” would have been bombed in 1944?

What if artists like Picasso and Van Gogh’s works would have been destroyed, as Adolf Hitler had planned?

The art lost and stolen during World War II is a little known story. It was a story co-writer, director and star George Clooney thought was important to tell with “Monuments Men.”

The film focuses on a small group of art and architecture experts who become soldiers in charge of saving Europe’s important buildings, monuments and art. They become the Monuments Men. The team discovers early on that thousands of works have been stolen from private collectors and churches by Nazi forces.

Though the Monuments Men are older and much less skilled than the average soldier, they spread out over France, Germany and Belgium to try and discover the stolen art before it can be sent to Germany on Hitler’s orders.

Along with Clooney, “Monuments Men” features an all-star cast. John Goodman, Bill Murray, Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”), Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”) and Bob Balaban are the Monuments Men.

Even though this is a World War II movie and occasionally characters die, “Monuments Men” is light-hearted most of the time.

Scenes with Murray and Balaban were a joy for the audience. Balaban’s character is neurotic and grumpy while Murray’s character shares the same charm and wit the actor is known for. Those scenes especially keep the plot going and keep the movie from being too monotonous.

Critics have not exactly been kind to “Monuments Men.” Perhaps that has more to do with Clooney’s directing style than the actual storyline.

From opening to ending credits, the audience can sense that Clooney was most likely trying to make “Monuments Men” a throwback to classic World War II movies like “The Great Escape” and “The DirtyDozen.”

While this might have been a great dramatic device for a movie like this one, the star director was not consistent with using it. It felt like at times “Monuments Men” was doing a wonderful job paying homage to iconic war movies and then it was like the movie makers forgot.

Had Clooney either left out the small tributes or fully committed to using them, “Monuments Men” would have been a spectacular film. At the heart of the movie is a wonderful story told through brilliant actors. Unfortunately, the audience has to look past certain stylistic problems to enjoy it.