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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Fellowship of the Art Ring

The Monuments Men

Plot Overview

Based on a true story, in the waning days of WW2, the Nazis have been looting art for the Führer Museum, brain­child of “failed art student” Adolph Hitler. He has issued a “Nero Decree” that his minions are to burn it all should Germany appear about to lose the war, or Hitler should die. And it doesn't look like they're winning.

In order to preserve the artistic foundation of western civilization, FDR has signed a “Monuments Memo” asking to have “put together young art scholars” to recover the Nazis' stolen art and return it to its right­ful owners. Unfortu­nately, all the “young art scholars are already over there fighting,” so Frank Stokes (George Clooney) forms a team of seven old guys: museum directors, curators, and art historians to do the job. The Monuments Men consist of: Frank Stokes (George Clooney), James Granger (Matt Damon), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Gar­field (John Good­man), Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Donald Jeff­ries (Hugh Bonne­ville), and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban). These seven bond into a fellowship of an art ring during basic training and then are shipped out.

The Allied soldiers tired of fighting are reluctant to take chances of getting killed over mere art. Paris curatrix Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett) for her part regards Michel­angelo's statue ‘Madonna and Child’ worthy of recovery, but she doesn't trust this rag­tag out­fit with information on where it went. It is up to James Granger (Matt Damon) to win her trust. The others split off into teams of two to scour the country­side for what they can retrieve. Frank Stokes (George Clooney) rehabili­tates a discarded radio set with a glowing German vacuum tube, so they have a way to communicate with each other. A German land mine thought to be a dud provides some fire­works. Art stashes in mines provide a sub­ter­ranean locale in which to race the Russians to it. There's a pause to admire a fine riding steed. And piles of discovered gold reveal what the high command truly values.


Walking down an alley on my way to see “The Monuments Men” last Friday of Memorial Day week­end I chanced to pass within hailing distance of Hayward Field just as a track meet was about to begin. As the band struck up “The Star Spangled Banner” I spied through the trees and buildings, the American flag waving proudly, so I paused and removed my hat for our national anthem. Such a feeling of appreciation came over me it's hard to describe. This movie is also very good at invoking an appreciation for America's fighting men, not just for having recovered stolen art but for liberating the oppressed, as the movie brings out in multiple places. It's as it is written, (Prov. 14:34) “Righteous­ness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” The reproach of the German death camps is also brought forth in the movie.

This “reproach to any people” carries over in the movie to the husbands who are in Paris and this is war, so what do they do? We hope that James, a “good husband,” quits him­self well when he is tempted by Claire, this being Paris at war.

The exaltation and the reproach contrast can also be applied to named villains/heroes: “Nero” the Roman emperor who fiddled while Rome burned, after whom was named the memo to consume the art with flames, and “John Wayne” touted by a non–English-speaking Kraut demon­strating his know­ledge of American westerns.

And which side of the line do the Russians fall on who wanted the art for war trophies, not to be returned? Reminds me of Constantin Tischendorf whose long labor resulted in a borrowed prized Sinaitic Manu­script, the second most important one in modern Bible translations, but rather than return it to St. Catherine's Monastery where it belongs, he forged the Abbot's signature making it a gift to the Russian Czar. That is (one of) the reason(s) why I've quoted from the King James Version (KJV) above: it's textus receptus (received text) is perfectly adequate Greek, and I don't want to be guilty of misprision by using any modern translation (after 1933) that incor­por­ates a stolen manuscript.

Production Values

“The Monuments Men” (2014) was directed by George Clooney. Its screenplay was written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, as adapted from the 2010 book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History” by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter, and from Robert M. Edsel's 2006 book, Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe's Great Art — America and Her Allies Recovered It. It is based on an actual MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives) unit of WW2 truly reflecting its activities with an accuracy comparable to John Wayne representing the history of the American west: it works for pictures.

Matt Damon played James Granger who closely resembled Capt. James Rorimer, a curator of the New York Metro­politan Museum of Art. While in the movie, James is recruited directly from his civilian position, in real life, Rorimer was an American infantry­man later given a commission in the MFAA. He met one Rose Valland, who resembled Claire Simone in the movie. The other characters are part real and part imagination. The real unit had more members, though, but it was pared down for the movie. The plot was also speeded up with a more impending Russian arrival to give the Men's task an added urgency. A lot of dry humor was inserted here and there. Although the real life Nazis destroyed modern art, they preserved what they perceived as reflecting their cultural values (go figure).

The scenery and machinery and equipment looked genuine. The music is from the right period, and the Christmas music, i.e.Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (Written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin, performed by Nora Sagal), is like to make one home­sick.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

I liked “The Monuments Men” and felt the actors quit themselves well with what material they had to work with; with time to develop their characters, they would have been more memor­able. It was a good movie to bolster patriotic appreciation on Memorial Day weekend. I'm not going to kid myself into thinking I'm getting a serious education in war history from these war movies, but it gives one a feel for what happened. War is also about art, about civilization for that matter, and one's time at the movies is not wasted.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes.

Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years.

Special effects: Well done special effects.

Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day.

Suspense: A few suspenseful moments.

Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.