I have no idea how this movie turned out so… bland. I wouldn't call it bad because you could watch George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray in pretty much anything and it would be at least somewhat worthwhile, but MONUMENTS MEN is definitely nowhere near as good as it could have been.
It's especially strange because Clooney's past directorial efforts (like GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK) have been fairly strong. And with a cast that also includes recent Oscar winners Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett, as well as underrated character actor Bob Balaban, they had the talent in front of the screen too. However, the script is just missing that spark of ensemble fun found in the OCEAN films. MONUMENTS MEN doesn't know if it wants to be a comedy or drama, so it kind of meanders between both. Anything with Murray and Balaban is great, but the rest of the flick is a snooze. Nothing exciting or memorable seems to ever happen. The characters aren’t fleshed out or particularly interesting, and the script makes the odd choice to split everyone up so they don't get to bounce off of each other. And the war aspect feels cliché and small compared to other better WWII films.
The other big issue for me has to do with the central conceit—the stakes of the story just aren't that high. It's tough asking an audience to care about some guys worried about artwork while other soldiers are fighting and dying by the hundreds. The filmmakers don't do a good enough job creating a sense of urgency or understanding of why the Monuments Men's mission matters. Instead the group treats the average soldiers like uncultured meatheads who don't care about art enough to risk their life rescuing a statue. There are multiple monologues about how art is worth a man's life and how these art historians and museum directors are real soldiers. One could argue those points are indeed true, but it just seems so smug coming from George Clooney.
These special features have as much depth as the film itself.
Deleted Scenes (2:08): Two scenes ("Seeking Saint-Pierre" and "Attempting a Rescue") are just more of the same.
In Their Own Words (12:11): The cast and crew sit down with the four surviving members of the real-life Monuments Men to discuss their experiences in the war and how it compares to the film. A pretty cool comparison, though I wish it had a little more substance to it than just a 10 minute PR reel.
George Clooney's Mission (5:10): Another fluff piece talking about how great Clooney is as a filmmaker and actor. Honestly, he seems like a cool enough dude, but this type of special feature just feels like ass kissing.
Marshalling the Troops (7:54): Yet another pat on the back for the rest of the cast mixed with scenes from the film.
A Woman Amongst the Monuments Men (4:24): A short but sweet featurette that focuses on Cate Blanchett's character specifically and the real life women that inspired her.
A DVD and Digital Copy is also included.
MONUMENTS MEN hardly kept my interest as a comedy, drama or World War II movie, which is impressive given the amount of talent in front and behind the camera. Not sure what exactly went wrong here, but it's a waste of time for everyone, including you.
Extra Tidbit: Daniel Craig was originally cast in Matt Damon's role.