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The Monuments Men, A Delightful Film in the Style of the Greats

February 9, 2014

This week was the perfect example of why I am not going to give up reviewing movies anytime soon. I like to think of myself as the anti-critic, sometimes appreciating something the critics hate and hating on something the critics love. I still can’t figure out what led to so many positive reviews of “The Lego Movie.” Today I am now left wondering why so many critics didn’t give “The Monuments Men” positive ratings. As a sign of the times it seems even most critics don’t appreciate the older style of film-making and scoring. It is no surprise that “The Monuments Men” will probably be the only film I watch this year where the music is so deliciously thematic.

Unlike all of those war films focusing on battles, “The Monuments Men” focuses on the attempts of a few art experts to save major artwork from being destroyed during World War 2. I can understand some of the disappointment considering the film doesn’t have the same tone as we saw in the early trailers. Rather than some lighthearted comedy, this is mostly a serious film, but rightfully so. Admittedly, it does move along at a slower pace than we have gotten used to lately but it never drags or feels in need of serious editing. This older style of filming is a homage to earlier war films with ensemble casts, and it gives composer Alexandre Desplat a chance to write perhaps his greatest score to date.

The music is reminiscent of scores like John Addison’s “A Bridge Too Far” and Elmer Bernstein’s “The Great Escape.” It has a jaunty main theme and a number of sub-themes that show up at times. The main theme re-appears in a number of different forms, including some somber sections, and some more heroic ones. The music is thankfully given a chance to shine like we rarely see these days. Most sequences are devoid of sound effects as the music carries the scenes. While some found this to be distracting, I found it quite engaging and endearing to the film.

I can tell from George Clooney’s performance in the film that he deliberately choose to take a more reverent tone to the film. I was quite glad he did, because it helped focus on the seriousness of the story behind it all. This film might be too slow for some, and the music might be too manipulative for others. But if you appreciate the classic style of film-making and the thematic style of film scoring, this is a gorgeous film that will re-kindle the joy you felt when you first heard some of the great film scores of the past fifty years.
4.5/5

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