Danny Ocean’s Grandfather Fights the Nazis

Matt Damon, George Clooney, movie, The Monuments Men

courtesy 20th Century Fox via USA Today

Way back in January 2012, Oscar nominee George Clooney, then enjoying the hoopla surrounding his performance in The Descendants, announced that his next film behind the camera would be based on the true story of a group of “soldiers” (really architects, art historians, museum curators, etc.) tasked with protecting priceless art treasures from the ravages of war and from Hitler’s grand plan to wipe out the culture of the Jewish people.  (“This sounds promising!”)

As soon as the project announcement was made, casting rumors began to circulate. Daniel Craig and Bill Murray were the first names to surface. (Craig didn’t stay, but Murray can be seen in the trailer). Cate Blanchett, with whom Clooney worked on The Good German, came next .  After that, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Hugh Bonneville all added their names to the dotted line. The last “get” was Matt Damon, who replaced Craig.  I’m sure that took some real heavy duty arm-twisting on Clooney’s part.

Based on the book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History” by Robert Edsel, the screenplay is by Clooney and his producing partner Grant Heslov.  The cinematography is by Phedon Papamichael who shot The Descendents and The Ides of March. The score is by gifted and prolific Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, but Clooney’s imprimatur alone put high expectations on this movie before a single frame was lensed.

Filming began on March 6, 2013.

On March 11, I saw the first mention of the film in the same sentence as “Oscar contenders for 2014”.

In April, Sony showed some early footage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

Here we are in August and by now nearly everyone capable of making an awards contenders list for the upcoming season has The Monuments Men firmly entrenched in nearly every possible category including actor, director, and screenplay.  This is gonna be big! HUGE!  (Despite the fact that it’s not traveling to Venice or Toronto – or even, as of this writing, New York – for a festival).

So now we have the first trailer. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. What’s the tone Clooney’s going for? Where’s the gravitas?  I wasn’t looking for another Schindler’s List, but I wasn’t  expecting Ocean’s Eleven Takes on the Nazis. Have a look:

Is it me?The delivery of the dialogue implies one thing, the song playing under the trailer implies another (more in keeping with the subject matter).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I won’t see it, because I will. There’s too much here that promises to be a good time at the movies. Clooney being Clooney is very entertaining. When he teams up with his friends, like Matt Damon, they have great fun and it translates to the screen.  This is a very impressive cast and the opportunity to see them work together, again is too good to miss.  I guess I was just expecting “more”. More what exactly I can’t quite say yet. And why isn’t simply a “good time at the movies” enough anymore?

Then again, this is only the first trailer. Perhaps my questions will be answered before the very awards season conscious December US release date.

In a race against time, a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them.

The Monuments Men costars a lot of fine European character actors like Diarmaid Murtagh (Vikings, Starz Camelot) and opens on December 18 in the US but not until January for the rest of the world, including the UK on the 9th.

Just my humble opinions. Feel free to put me in my place in the comments. In the meantime, check out the images courtesy USA Today:

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