Brian Henry Martin at the movies

George's Antique Roadshow

Published Thursday, 13 February 2014
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If you are suffering from insomnia and fancy a snooze in the cinema, well you are in luck.

Inexplicably billed as 'the greatest treasure hunt in history', George Clooney's The Monuments Men is in fact the most boring film of the year.

So deeply dull that within minutes you will be overwhelmed by uncontrollable lethargy. One woman in front of me almost immediately slumped sideways in her seat leaving her ponytail protruding in mid-air, where it remained unmoved for the rest of the movie. The monument mane indeed.

But with an outstanding A-list cast, Oscar winners one and all, starring in a remarkable true story, how can this flounder? Well, sincere and worthy as this may be, for a so called 'action drama', it lacks essential action and is devoid of any drama.

Based on the best selling book by Robert M. Edsel, The Monuments Men reveals the real exploits of a group of American and British museum curators and art historians in the momentous final months of WW2. Set between D-Day and V-E Day, their secret mission was to risk their own lives recovering stolen art from across war-torn Europe as the Nazi Third Reich collapses.

Wonderful I thought, Indiana Jones meets The Guns Of Navarone in a captivating fresh adventure. But I was sadly mistaken. What should have been a magnificent seven style caper led by George Clooney with Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin falls strangely flat. The only monuments these men come close to nailing is their own tombstone performances.

Clooney as ragtag squadron leader Stokes never gets out of second gear and the normally dynamic Matt Damon has never been so stiff, struggling to convince as Granger, the Medieval Art director of the Met museum in New York. Cate Blanchett brings her own French forgery to the proceedings, playing Clare Simone, a bespectacled Parisian curator caught in the cross-fire when the Nazis leave town. 'I will say this only once' but her frigid femme fatale is pure Gallic caricature and as genuine as a Monet fridge magnet.

Writer/director/actor Clooney fails to inject the most essential ingredient into this cultural cliffhanger - tension. There is simply none and the actors plod from one pointless scene to the next. Characters talk, smoke and look at paintings, talk, smoke and look some more. What should be a gripping thriller is a perplexing dud.

Lesson one; don't start with an academic slideshow and George Clooney's dulcet tones telling us how determined he is to prevent a thousand years of culture from going up in flames. What really needed to be torched was this rather dry and self-important approach to what could have been a fascinating story. Who knows what a great picture Quentin Tarantino could have painted with this rich material? Inglorious Historians?

Instead, Saving Private Ryan meets The Last Of The Summer Wine.

The Monuments Men (Cert 12a) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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