Ricky's Film Reviews

Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases

The Monuments Men

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1943. World War II.

Frank Stokes is about to assemble a group known as ‘The Monuments Men’ – an Army unit where each member specialise in museums or historic art. Together, they will rescue as many treasures of the Western civilization as possible; precious statues, monuments and original framed paintings.

Treasure hunts, car chases, bad guys, shoot-out’s and a hell of a lot of smoking. This group is about to jump feet-first into the middle of the war. And its going to be a VERY bumpy ride…

 

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Cast

George Clooney – Frank Stokes

Nick Clooney – Frank Stokes (old)

Matt Damon – Lt. James Granger

Bill Murray – Sgt. Richard Campbell

John Goodman – Sgt. Walter Garfield

Jean Dujardin – Lt. Jean Claude Clermont

Cate Blanchett – Claire Simone

Bob Balaban – Pvt. Preston Savitz

Hugh Bonneville – Lt. Donald Jeffries

Sam Hazeldine – Colonel Langton

 

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Opening

The opening scene of The Monuments Men was done brilliantly; a shiny black 1937 Mercedes races round a corner in urgency, before the main characters are shown one by one. The music, the action, it all has the feeling of a classic vintage TV show – remember Dad’s Army or ‘Allo ‘Allo? That kind of thing. And the element of the opening I liked the most was the fact every individual character was introduced immediately. There was no drawn-out crap – no delay – no piss-boring backstories – we were delivered Frank, Claire, Walter, James, BANG, BANG, BANG. Just like that.

I could tell from this fast-paced opening sequence that we were in for a ride, and it wasn’t long before I was proved correct.

 

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Humble Ensemble

The most precious element that runs strong throughout the entire movie, is the cast ensemble. The on-screen chemistry between Damon, Blanchett, Murray and the other boys was filled with brilliant dynamics. I’ve seen live theatre performances where the ensemble was strong and wonderfully glued together, where I embraced the atmosphere I was drawn in to with passion and admiration.

..and this was the exact reaction I had to the cast of The Monuments Men.

Before the movie began, I had my doubts. “Oh Christ”, I thought to myself, “John Goodman AGAIN. George Clooney AGAIN”. I like Matt Damon, but mixed with a bunch of oldies, and will Cate be as good as her previous performance in Blue Jasmine?..

They pulled it off excellently.

Having a young chap like Matt acting out a scene with 3 or 4 of Hollywood’s O.A.P.’s added diversity to the movie – and then of course the only main female role played by Cate was different; a group of men and one female had a sort of feminine restriction thing going on. And the fact Claire was a spy added a nice twist in the tale.

There isn’t a hell of a lot I can elaborate on because you can all see the cast line-up yourselves. But I will state for the record, they are a faultless ensemble each actor as strong as the other – and they seem to play out the movie effortlessly.

 

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Bill Murray’s In No Hurry

Why does Bill Murray not look any older?!

Call me a retro boy, but my main movie memory of him is Ghostbusters as Peter Venkman. Of course he’s aged, but he looks exactly the same as he used to and his presence on screen is just as full of humour.

Bill is certainly in no hurry to get old, raggy and retire – on the contrary, he is just as strong as ever in this movie. I don’t know what it is about the man, but I feel an air of hilarity when I look at him. Perhaps its his dry facial expressions or natural sarcasm – he seems to be brilliant at delivering serious emotion, yet bringing a whole load of ‘LOL’ with it. Thing is, I remember when I saw him in Zombieland (you know – that random ‘end of world’ flick set on a fairground starring Emma Stone) and when he made his appearance (as himself) he looked really old and grey?.. perhaps they made him up to look like that. But I honestly thought he looked older than in The Monuments Men.

Bill Murray is a wonderful addition to the cast of The Monuments Men, providing a comforting, wise old character. A familiar face who is rather witty, yet like the other characters, has a rather heartbreaking back-story of his own..

 

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Hidden Gems

I found the whole concept of this movie very swashbuckling. What the main characters get up to and how they get up to it contains an air of excitement continuously. Stolen paintings, hidden treasure, Nazi car chases, cave-dwelling.. these exciting elements blend together and ribbon the movie with a wonderfully adventurous atmosphere.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade meets The Goonies, as this story is propelled forward with wonderfully valiant force. And as the men proceed to uncover and rescue more works of art, they are faced with various threats which they must overcome together. And its no picnic – as well as their discoveries of hidden gems, they are confronted by gun-wielding enemies.

The story contains this element of excitement which gift-wraps the entire movie and helps it to pick up pace (instead of stalling) along the way. And it is this exact element which kept me hooked on the screen throughout. I loved it.

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If You’re French Or German..

..you might just love this movie.

Due to the World War II backdrop and German setting, also the heavy use of French references, natives of both countries will no doubt enjoy The Monuments MenThe movie uses filming locations such as Babelsburg Studios in Potsdam (Germany), Harz and Berlin-Brandenburg. Then of course, we have the heavily German sub-plot (being set during World War II)  as well as many Nazis (some rather cute) running around shooting at our main boys.

We get a few references to Hitler, one of which proved hilarious; where Sgt. Richard Campbell (Murray) is sat at a German family’s dinner table. In order to ‘out’ the husband and wife and get closer to the truth about a stolen piece of art, he announces, “Heil Hitler” in a tone soaked in dry sarcasm.

..the couple’s two small children in the living room immediately stop playing, stand tall and yell, “HEIL HITLER!” – performed in such a passionately patriotic fashion, that the audience LOL’d joyfully.

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And as for French viewers, its mainly down to Matt and Cate. There was a very funny reaction whenever Lt. James Granger attempted to speak French. Because quite simply – he was bloody awful at it. Every French character he spoke to in his version of French made a point of telling him he was shit at it (again – the audience loved this), and Matt was genuinely laugh-out-loud funny whenever he attempted to “parle Français”.

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Cate Blanchett brought a fresh, new character to the screen from what she’s done previously. My first thought was, “fuck me, she’s foreign” – glasses, straight-backed posture, and hair tied back in a bun, with a fantastic convincing French accent, she got into her character effortlessly. A welcome addition to the ensemble, my admiration for her was all down to how brilliant an actress she was throughout.

..and just wait for the scene between her and Matt, where he visits her in a prison cell – her reaction to his lack of French language skills is bloody hilarious.

 

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Set & Scenery

I cannot fault the setting, or the scenery.

The filming locations in Germany gave the movie the spark it needed, using some beautiful outdoor scenery and backdrops. Atop these vast horizons were lantern-lit caves, Nazi camps, castles and farms – each location setting the scene perfectly, I felt drawn into each bit. I’d go as far as to say the scenery was gorgeous. In the way of ‘setting the scene’, this movie cannot be any better than it is. The soundtrack is great too, very chirpy – fun, bringing the viewer directly into the action with its jazzy, swing 1940’s mood.

 

 

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Jolly Good Show

Before seeing The Monuments Men, I would never have thought the movie would be a funny one. But it was. A good percentage of its screen time is very watchable, enjoyable. And made me laugh quite a bit. There are of course, more emotional moments where the situation is serious – but aside from these is a lot of quirky humour; almost slapstick. Be it one-liner’s spoken by the characters or farcical scenes, the audience were laughing out loud quite frequently – and so was I.

I love it when a movie is watchable – you know – you sit there, completely relaxed allowing yourself to get sucked into what is happening on screen. You let it wash over you, as you absorb the important elements like comedy or issues the movie raises. The Monuments Men is incredibly watchable, made even more watchable by its impressive ensemble of cast.

 

 

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Overall, The Monuments Men is a patriotic re-enactment of true events from the past. It is historically accurate and interesting, and very funny at the same time. It has an air of sheer adventure throughout, but remains true to its plot and manages to balance the seriousness of the effects of World War II with some nice comic moments.

The winner for me was the cast – a diverse bunch of people you wouldn’t normally see in a movie together are assembled – and the result is excellent. They really smashed this one out of the park. Worth a watch if you can get to see it. Its a ‘jolly good show’.

Three cheers for our cast, “hip! hip! … FUCK YEAH!

“hip, hip! … FUCK YEAH!”

“hip, hip! … FUCK YEAH!”

 

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7/10

 

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2014 by .
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