As a director, George Clooney has a definite taste for the retro: we’ve had the screwball of Leatherheads, the ‘70s paranoia of Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, and the old-fashioned news values of Good Night, And Good Luck.
On the face of it then, The Monuments Men is right up his alley – a film about rueful, mature men trying to save the treasures of Western civilisation looted by the Nazis during the Second World War.
Clooney is director, co-writer and, on-screen, a dashing, semi-fictional art historian called Stokes, who recruits a platoon of crack treasure hunters that includes sculptor John Goodman, grumpy Bob Balaban, famous architect Bill Murray, Matt Damon, boozy art historian Hugh Bonneville and ‘Vairy Freynch’ art dealer Jean Dujardin.
Not so much a dirty dozen, more a doughty half-dozen, but all of them known to have their way with a quip, and an appetite for derring-do.
With such a starry, swaggering cast, a daring quest, a dame (Cate Blanchett as a suspicious French museum secretary), and Nazis – what could possibly go wrong?
In a nutshell it feels like a forgery, and not a particularly artful one.
The glossed-up camaraderie evokes an ersatz Hogan’s Heroes, and the drama is a less rousing The Great Escape. The guilt ultimately rests with Clooney, who struggles to build character, tension and excitement and allows Alexandre Desplat’s unbearably jaunty score to intrude on any redeeming moments like an explosion in a tuba factory.
By Siobhan Synnot