The Monuments Men
It may not be a great movie, but it forces you to remember that the importance of life transcends life itself.
While The Monuments Men has been roundly blasted by critics across the country, it still is a powerful historical film. Based on the great book of the same name by Robert M. Edsel, Director George Clooney gives the audience a chance to ride along with a few dedicated Allied soldiers who sought nothing more than to preserve Europe’s classic architecture and individual works of art in World War II.
Though the movie itself reveals little of the carnage of the war, it really didn’t have to. As noted by Pulitzer Prize winning Rick Atkinson in Volume 3 of his liberation trilogy, “The Guns at Last Light”, U.S. casualties in Western Europe totaled 587,000, which included 135,576 dead. 250,000 Americans laid buried in 457 cemeteries scattered across 86 countries. For an estimated 44,000 lost at sea, nothing could be done. And yet that paled with nearly 27,000,000 Russians killed.
The Monuments Men simply gives you a close-up view of some of those who risked their lives to retrieve art stolen by the Nazis. If you’ve paid attention to the recent development in Germany where more than 1,280 artworks with ties to the Nazis were recovered from the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, you know that this dramatic quest is still going on to this very day.
Here, you see Mr. Clooney leading a team that was sent to various locations in Europe. Sure, when the cast includes John Goodman and Bill Murray, you know there are going to be some funny one-liners. However, to criticize soldiers risking their lives who occasionally had to laugh instead of cry is fundamentally absurd.
Rounding out the cast are Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Matt Damon and Jean Dujardin, and they are all appealing. In particular, Damon stands out as the soldier working undercover in Paris to try to convince the lovely Claire Simone, played with grace and style by Cate Blanchett, to assist their cause.
I have had the experience of visiting the salt mines in Austria, Hitler’s hideaway at Berchtesgaden as well as the abominable concentration camp in Dresden. We will never forget what the Nazis did to over 6,000,000 Jews, and fortunately future generations will be able to help sooth that pain with the artwork saved by the tremendous efforts of the Monuments Men.