The Monuments Men: This sure does look like World War II, all right.
In his review of The Monuments Men, Erik Henriksen is absolutely right. He correctly identifies it as the worst of all George Clooney's directorial efforts, says that it "steadfastly refuses to live up to its promise," and identifies that the movie adds up to "not much of anything." I watched The Monuments Men last weekend. I wish I'd just taken Henriksen's advice and not bothered.
Here's the thing I can't figure out: Why is The Monuments Men so fucking boring? How do you take a cast of some of the most interesting character actors in the movie business today and make such a relentlessly uninteresting movie? I'm not asking hypothetically. I want to understand exactly how Clooney went about making such an incredibly boring movie. I almost want to watch The Monuments Men again, in order to understand the moviemaking mechanics that brought about such an aggressively dull film.
The script, obviously, is a huge contributor. All these actors are amazing with sharp dialogue, but Monuments Men offers them almost nothing to work with. It's a pedestrian script that doesn't bother to round out its characters at all, besides giving them some anonymous family back home to pine over. As Henriksen points out, the film assembles a team of art experts, only to immediately disperse them all over Europe. Plodding herds of expositional paragraphs trample every lively moment. There's very little action. There's no character development—because, primarily, there are no characters to develop.
But it's more than just a script problem. The movie's rhythm is all fucked up. Scenes crash into one another for no good reason. There's no elegant sense of transition at all; instead, the camera whips from one member of the Monuments Men to another. The stakes are never raised, our attention never feels demanded. The entire movie somehow feels like a pan shot that unfolds in the first five minutes of a much more superior film. If I were a film school teacher, I would force my students to watch The Monuments Men as an example of how not to make a movie. It's not that it's an especially painful movie to watch. It's certainly not so bad it's good. It's just incompetent on so many levels, and packed with so many bad decisions, but it still looks like a legitimate Hollywood film, somehow. It's a landmark in the cinema of the mundane, a movie that makes World War II look as dangerous and heroic as a heated argument over web design in some tech company's offices. Boredom has never looked this professional.