Towards the end of World War Two, with Allied forces pushing into Germany and the Russians also bearing down on Europe, one officer forms a small unit of scholars to go into dangerous areas and recover priceless art stolen by the Nazis during the occupation.
George Clooney both stars as our lead and directs the film, and honestly he might want to consider sticking with the acting.
That’s not to say the film is without merit. As a story it is worth telling; I am sure that many people will be unaware of Hitler’s possessive nature towards all European art and sculpture, or how valuable these treasures really are to society as a whole. I commend the film for having the decent budget, production value and stars given to such an overlooked aspect of the war.
Also being set after the major events in the war is quite unique; our characters reaching the Normandy beaches long after the fighting has ended, had a certain quality to it.
But… it really isn’t as good as the sum of its parts, and the film becomes a muddled, cliche bore.
Clooney’s film has some really unpleasant editing choices. Scenes come and go so quickly at times that we cease to feel any reason for them, or are oddly thrown in while another scene unfolds. Sure you can do this to add tension, but here it is done so many times (and with a multitude of date stamps, as if paranoid we will forget this is set during 1943!)
There are a lot of names in this film, but not a whole lot to do with them. The comedy elements are often forced, at least when in subsequent scenes characters are being killed off!
Did we really need Bill Murray’s character making his own beef jerky, only to require a tooth removed because of eating it?
I went into the film with reduced expectations, yet I still felt the film was poorly executed and without clear focus. Make the film about finding lost paintings and rescuing them from a desolated Europe, or make a comedy about it. You can’t easily have both. Why waste time with half-hearted character development (Do you think the horse would like a cigarette??) and show us the story. No, I didn’t feel anything for any of the characters; the film simply didn’t tell me anything about them. Not really. The one soldier’s death which becomes a means to rally the others together… I barely even knew the guy! He was in the background while Damon and Clooney pretended the film was Ocean’s World War Two.
Ach. It had good intentions, and it is obviously a subject Clooney personally wanted to do, but god is it forgetful. It would work as a forty-minute television documentary, not a star-studded feature film.
Additional Marshmallows: Damon’s character James had a funny schtick about being unable to speak French though. Subtitles and all.