George Clooney’s new movie "Monuments Men" is one part "Ocean’s Eleven," and one part "Indiana Jones" with just a touch of "Da Vinci Code" thrown in for good measure.

George Clooney’s new movie "Monuments Men" is one part "Ocean’s Eleven," and one part "Indiana Jones" with just a touch of "Da Vinci Code" thrown in for good measure.


When I saw it, I will confess, I went simply because it was the only movie showing at an hour in a day on which I was determined to make time to take myself to do something I love but rarely do which is watch a movie in a movie theater. Some people I trust to know what they are talking about had praised the movie, so I felt confident I would like it. And, of course, there was Clooney who is never hard on the eyes and can generally be counted upon to be entertaining.


Clooney and his long-time writing partner Grant Heslove wrote the screenplay and produced the movie. Clooney also directed it. The movie is based on a book by Robert M. Edsel.


Even if the movie hadn’t starred Clooney or been about WWII, I probably would have gone to see it because John Goodman and Bill Murray were both lead actors in it. That would suggest, at least to me, that the movie would be funny. And it is in moments. In fact, the humor might be its saving grace. Without the humor slyly applied by Clooney and Heslove, one might get overwhelmed by idea that Adolf Hitler actually wanted to own, for himself and his vision of a master race to come, all of the world’s best art. The idea seems crazy to someone sitting in a movie theater in 2014, but back in 1945 when Allied forces were over taking Hitler’s army, it must have seemed like salt poured on the wounds of the countries trampled and bombed to bits by Germany. It is hard to tell if I felt so deeply that pain of loss and destruction because of Clooney’s great story telling abilities or the countless hours of history classes I took in college, but felt it I did.


While this movie is not likely to go down in history as one of the best movies about WWII, it won’t be called the worst either. It is well acted by some really good actors. The worst thing one can say about the acting is that one leaves the theater wishing the actors were given a bit more to do with their talents. Maybe Clooney tried to tell too big a tale in too little time or with too few people or too little money?


It isn’t a bad movie, it just isn’t the great movie it feels like it could have been. It is one part "Ocean’s Eleven" and one part "Indiana Jones" and one misses the missing parts of those franchises with "Monuments Men."


For me, one of the problems with the movie is it only gives passing glances at the larger crime of WWII. Yes, Hitler was attempting to pull off the greatest art heist in history, and that is awful. But he was also attempting to wipe from the face of the earth an entire ethnic group of people. And that is so horrific that is almost beyond description.


To his credit, Clooney addresses that fact in two key scenes. In one, one of the Monuments Men, played by Clooney, talks to a German who ran a concentration camp about what is likely to happen to those who followed Hitler’s orders to such extremes. But the scene just didn’t do the subject matter justice. In fact, I was bothered by the fact that Clooney’s character said he would read of the German’s death after being tried for war crimes and then never think of the German again.


To never think of the individual Germans who carried out Hitler’s insane plans is to start to let go of the horror of them and to let go of even a tiny bit of that is to lessen its impact on the history.


I know every movie ever made about WWII can’t concentrate on the unspeakable crimes committed against the Jewish and other peoples of Europe, but they should get more than a few scenes while the majority of the movie talks about the loss of cultural identity associated with things — grand things to be sure, precious things of course, but things none the less.


My favorite scene in the movie, which did address what was really going on as Hitler’s army marched across Europe, showed a warehouse in France filled with not only art, but furniture and household items. When Matt Damon’s character asked Cate Blanchett’s character what it all is, she replies oh so quietly, "People’s lives."


In that scene, Clooney is at his best as a visual story teller because the camera allows the audience to see row upon row of place settings and tea servers and hutches, the types of which could be found in any home in the world in that era.


That scene said somewhere there were people who had lost even the smallest comforts of life like a plate or a cup to call their own. In another scene Clooney hints that things were the least of what was taken from those people.


In that scene a few of the Monuments Men come across a barrel filled with small chunks of gold. One character points out it came from people’s teeth.


Elsewhere in the movie, Clooney’s character says one can take away an entire generation of a society and the society will come back if you don’t also take away its core ideals and values as represented by its works of art. I think in any other war, that line would have resonated the way Clooney must have wanted it to. But Hitler wasn’t after just one generation of the groups he sought to destroy. He wanted them — young and old and in between — gone. And if they were all gone, who would have been there to remember what all of the art had meant in the first place?


At the end of the movie, a military leader asks Clooney’s character if men’s lives were worth the paintings and sculptures the Monuments Men sought to save. To get the answer, one must see the movie, and despite its flaws, the movie is worth seeing to get the answer.


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