Movie review: The Monuments Men (2014)

The Monuments Men is a very promising movie centered on real-life events. In reality, the movie has a disjointed, choppy feel to it.

The Monuments Men was a band of soldiers formed with the explicit mission to save the art that was be plundered during WWII and to try to prevent the destruction of sites that housed art. They ultimately found several caches of art hidden by the Nazis in various mines throughout Europe. As they could, they returned the stolen art to the original owners. Unfortunately, some owners never returned from the gas chambers.

As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but think of the sad parallels with current wars against so-called Islamists (ISIS/Daesh and the Taliban). Both groups have gone out of their way to destroy art from a millennia (or two or three) ago. Some ancient cities with their priceless ruins in Syria and Iraq are no more. Art from our cultural ancestors have been obliterated in the blink of an eye.

Not much notice is given to it. Just like not much notice was given as the US prepared to invade Iraq. Small voices tried to argue for protection around museums and sites in Iraq, but if the US cared so little about saving art during WWII, it cared even less now and for art from non-European sources.

When I hear of the Taliban destroying the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan or ISIS dynamiting ancient Syria cities, a part of me cries, joined by a few other isolated souls around the world who weep at our shared cultural loss. The modern-day plundering and destruction of art is no different from it was in WWII Europe, only this time there are no Monuments Men.

The movie is packed with famous actors and a boasts an interesting historical story but faltered in the dialogue, the storytelling, and the weaving together of the bits. I have not read the book about the Monuments Men but I suspect it would be a richer experience than the movie.

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