The Monuments Men

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The Monuments Men
The Monuments Men poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Clooney
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • George Clooney
  • Grant Heslov
Based on The Monuments Men 
by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Phedon Papamichael
Edited by Stephen Mirrione
Distributed by
Release dates
  • February 7, 2014 (2014-02-07) (United States)
  • February 20, 2014 (2014-02-20) (Germany)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
  • Germany
  • United States
Language English
Budget $70 million[2][3]
Box office $155 million[3]

The Monuments Men is a 2014 American-German[4][5] war film directed by George Clooney, written and produced by Clooney and Grant Heslov, and starring Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett. Loosely based on the non-fiction book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter, the film follows an Allied group from the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, tasked with finding and saving pieces of art and other culturally important items before their destruction or theft by the Nazis during World War II.[6][7]

The film, co-produced by Columbia Pictures (in association with 20th Century Fox) and Babelsberg Studio, was released on February 7, 2014.[8][9] The film received mixed critical reviews and grossed $155 million worldwide.


In 1943 during World War II, the Allies are making good progress driving back the Axis powers in Italy. However, Frank Stokes (George Clooney) persuades the American President that victory will have little meaning if the artistic treasures of Western civilization are lost in the fighting. Stokes is directed to assemble an Army unit nicknamed the "Monuments Men", comprising seven museum directors, curators, and art historians to both guide Allied units and search for stolen art to return it to its rightful owners.

Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), a curator in occupied France, is forced to assist Nazi officers like Viktor Stahl (Justus von Dohnányi) to oversee the theft of art for either Adolf Hitler's proposed Führermuseum in Linz, or as the personal property of senior commanders like Herman Goering. While she is nearly arrested for helping her Maquis brother unsuccessfully recapture such items, all seems lost when she discovers that Stahl is taking all of her gallery's contents to Germany as the Allies approach Paris. Simone runs to the railyard to confront Stahl, but can only watch as Stahl departs aboard the train carrying the precious cargo, standing defiantly as he futilely fires his pistol at her.

Stokes's unit finds its work frustrated by its own side's officers in the field, who refuse to endanger their own troops for the sake of his mission. James Granger (Matt Damon) finds that Simone will not cooperate with those whom she suspects want to confiscate the stolen art for their own country. The unit splits up to cover more ground, with varying degrees of success. Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) of the British Army sneaks into Bruges, which is still occupied by the Germans, at night to try to save a statue of the Madonna and Child by Michelangelo. He is killed attempting to stop Colonel Wegner from taking it away.

Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) learn that a Belgian panel set of religious artwork (the Van Eyck altarpiece) was removed by the priests of Ghent Cathedral for safekeeping, but their truck was stopped and the panels taken. Eventually, purely by chance, they find and arrest Viktor Stahl, hiding as a farmer, when they identify the paintings in his house as masterpieces, at least one stolen from the Rothschild Collection. Walter Garfield (John Goodman) and Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) get lost in the country side and blunder into a firefight. Clermont is mortally wounded and dies when Garfield is unable to find medical help. Meanwhile, Simone reconsiders when Granger shows her the Nero Decree, which orders the destruction of all German possessions if Hitler dies or Germany falls, and sees Granger return a painting looted from a Jewish family sent to the death camps to its rightful place in their empty home. She provides a comprehensive ledger she has compiled that provides valuable information on the stolen art and the rightful owners.

Even as the team learns that the artwork is being stored in various mines and castles, it also learns that it must now compete against the Soviet Union, which is seizing artwork as war reparations. Meanwhile, Colonel Wegner is systematically destroying whole art caches. Eventually, the team has some success, as it discovers at least one mine with over 16,000 art pieces, as well as grotesque finds like barrels of gold teeth extracted from victims of the death camps. In addition, it also captures the entire gold reserves of the Nazi German national treasury.

Finally, the team finds a mine in Austria that appears to have been demolished. However, the team discovers that only the entrances were blocked by the locals in order to prevent the Nazis destroying the contents. The team evacuates as much artwork as possible, including the sculpture Jeffries died trying to defend, before the Soviets arrive to take control of what is to become part of the Soviet zone of occupation.

Stokes reports back to President Truman that the team has recovered vast quantities of artwork and various other culturally significant items. As he requests to stay in Europe to oversee further searching and restoration, Truman asks Stokes if his efforts were worth the lives of the men that he lost. Stokes replies that they were. Truman then asks if, thirty years from now, anyone will remember that these men died for a piece of art. In 1977, the elderly Stokes (Nick Clooney), replies "Yeah," while he takes his grandson to see Michelangelo's Madonna sculpture.



Douglas C-47 Skytrain Dakota landing at Duxford Air Field during filming at Imperial War Museum Duxford, England

The Monuments Men is an American-German co-production of Columbia Pictures (in association with 20th Century Fox) and Studio Babelsberg.[10] The film was funded by the German Federal Film Fund (de) (DFFF) with €8.5 million,[11] Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg as well as Medien- und Filmgesellschaft Baden-Württemberg.[12][13] Casting was held in February 2013 for thousands of extras for the military scenes.[14][15]

Principal photography began in early March 2013 at the Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, Germany, in the Berlin-Brandenburg region and the Harz. The mines around Bad Grund, particularly the Wiemannsbucht and the Grube Hilfe Gottes were used in the filming of outdoor scenes. Other outdoor locations were the towns of Lautenthal, Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Goslar, Halberstadt and Osterwieck. Some of the scenes, including flights and American war base footage, were filmed at Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire, UK.[16][17]

Filming was scheduled to last until the end of June 2013, wrapping up in Rye, East Sussex.[8]


The film was originally set to be released on December 18, 2013.[18] A trailer was released on August 8, 2013.[19] On October 22, 2013, the film was pushed back to an unspecified date in February 2014, because post-production was taking longer than expected due to issues balancing humor with the serious nature of the subject matter.[20][21] On October 24, 2013, it was announced that the film would screen on February 7, 2014 at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival.[22][23]

The film was screened at UNESCO on 27 March 2014, on the occasion of the panel discussion "Modern Day Monuments Men and Women" on the preservation of heritage in times of conflict and the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property.[24]


George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin and producer Grant Heslov in Paris at the film's French premiere, February 2014

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 31% rating, with an average score of 5.2/10, based on 217 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Its intentions are noble and its cast is impressive, but neither can compensate for The Monuments Men‍ '​s stiffly nostalgic tone and curiously slack narrative."[25] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 52 out of 100, based on 43 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[26]

Film critic Peter Travers in Rolling Stone Magazine gave it 3 out of 4 stars, noting that while some of the dialog and emotions seemed inauthentic, the physical production and cinematography was "exquisite," with shooting done on locations in Germany and England.[27] In comparing the film with current ones, he considers it a "proudly untrendy, uncynical movie," where the story involved people seeking something more valuable than money: "Clooney [as director] feels there's much to be learned from these unsung art warriors. . . . What Clooney has crafted in The Monuments Men is a movie about aspiration, about culture at risk, about things worth fighting for. I'd call that timely and well worth a salute."[27]

Historian Alex von Tunzelmann, writing for The Guardian, noted several historical faults and said of the plot, "If you're getting the sense that the film is episodic and poorly structured, unfortunately you'd be right", and "There are far too many characters, so the screenplay splits them up into little groups and sends them off on various errands. Some of these are more exciting than others – but they do not add up to a satisfying plot. A TV series might have been a better vehicle for the "monuments men" stories than a feature film... The story is fascinating, but this film's good intentions are hampered by its lack of pace, direction, tone and properly fleshed-out characters."[28]

In its review, the Spanish tabloid newspaper La Razón cited that the film took its inspiration from "Hollywood war propaganda cinema", and that it shows the tendency of its director towards "historical revisionism".[29]

Due to the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack, it was revealed through several emails that director and star Clooney was upset and apologetic about the reviews the film received, and lost sleep over them.[30]

Historical accuracy[edit]

Although the film is based on real events, the names of all characters are changed, and a number of further adjustments to the historical facts were made in the interests of drama.[31] Clooney is quoted as saying "80 percent of the story is still completely true and accurate, and almost all of the scenes happened".[32]

The accounts of the events have, however, been altered to suit the purposes of the film in its own portrayal of the retrieval of these treasures. According to numerous real-life accounts, including an interview with Ernst Kaltenbrunner's nephew, Michl Kaltenbrunner, the art at the Altaussee, Austria, salt mine was saved truly due to the influence of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who defied the Fuhrer's orders to carry out the 'Nero Decree' and destroy the pieces in order to avoid its falling into the hands of his enemies.[33]

Dr Nigel Pollard of Swansea University awarded the film only two stars out of five for historical accuracy.[34] Pollard wrote that "There’s a kernel of history there, but The Monuments Men plays fast and loose with it in ways that are probably necessary to make the story work as a film, but the viewer ends up with a fairly confused notion of what the organisation Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (MFAA) was, and what it achieved. The real organisation was never a big one (a few dozen officers at most), but the film reduces it to just seven men to personalise the hunt for the looted art: five Americans, one British officer, the first to be killed off (Hugh Bonneville) and a Free French officer, marginalising the British role in the establishment of the organisation. This is presented as set up at Clooney's [Stokes'] initiative after the bombing of Monte Cassino (so, after February 1944). In fact, its origins actually went back to British efforts in Libya in 1942, and it already existed (albeit with teething troubles) when the Allies invaded Sicily in July 1943."

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (February 4, 2014). "George Clooney on the Epic Battle to Make ‘Monuments Men’". Variety. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b The Monuments Men at Box Office Mojo Retrieved March 26, 2014
  4. ^ Scott Foundas (29 January 2014). "In his fifth directorial feature, George Clooney transforms a fascinating art-world detective story into a surprisingly lifeless prestige picture.". Variety. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  5. ^ Michael Rosser (8 November 2013). "Monuments Men heading to Berlin". Screen Daily. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "George Clooney Sets Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin For WWII Drama ‘The Monuments Men’". Deadline. Retrieved November 18, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Directors' Page". Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Chitwood, Adam (March 5, 2013). "Production Begins on George Clooney’s THE MONUMENTS MEN Starring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Murray". Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  9. ^ Dockterman, Eliana (2013-10-22). "George Clooney's Monuments Men Pushed to 2014 |". Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  10. ^ "THE MONUMENTS MEN, Directed by and Starring George Clooney, Begins Production in Germany" (Press release). Studio Babelsberg. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Produktionsspiegel 2014" (PDF) (in German). Deutscher Filmförderfonds. 2014-01-06. p. 32. Retrieved 20 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Rekordwert für den Deutschen Filmförderfonds". Bundesregierung - Federal Republic of Germany. 24 January 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "George Clooney zurück in Berlin: Studio Babelsberg Koproduktion Monuments Men – Ungewöhnliche Helden hat Premiere auf der Berlinale" (Press release). Studio Babelsberg. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Komparsen für Clooney-Film in Babelsberg gesucht"., Official Berlin press release (in German). Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Tausende Berliner Männer als Komparsen für die Dreharbeiten des historischen Kinofilmes THE MONUMENTS MEN" (in German (Appears to be accessible only if the browser's language is German.)). Babelsberg Studios press release. 26 January 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  16. ^ "IN PICTURES: Hollywood stars come to Cambridge as George Clooney films Monuments Men with Matt Damon and John Goodman". Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  17. ^ "George Clooney and Matt Damon try out Cambridge gym". Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  18. ^ Han, Angie (December 7, 2012). "Release Dates: George Clooney’s ‘Monuments Men’ Slotted for December 2013, Terence Malick’s ‘To the Wonder’ Announces April Release". /Film. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  19. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (August 8, 2012). "'Monuments Men' trailer finds George Clooney and Matt Damon on the hunt for stolen art". HitFix. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  20. ^ "George Clooney Struggles With Tone of 'Monuments Men': 'It's Been a Bit of a Dance' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2014-01-30. 
  21. ^ "The Monuments Men Moves to 2014". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  22. ^ Fleming, Mike. "'Monuments Men' Release Date - Set For February 7, 2014". Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  23. ^ "The Monuments Men in the Official Programme of the 64th Berlinale". Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  24. ^ "UNESCO Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property". Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  25. ^ "The Monuments Men (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 26, 2014. 
  26. ^ "The Monuments Men". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  27. ^ a b Travers, Peter. "The Monuments Men" Review, Rolling Stone, Jan. 21, 2014
  28. ^ The Guardian
  29. ^ Monuments Men: Barras y estrellas
  30. ^
  31. ^ "The Monuments Men (2014)". History vs Hollywood. 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  32. ^ Markovitz, Adam (Aug 12, 2013). "George Clooney talks 'The Monuments Men'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  33. ^ Has Hollywood rewritten history again? Writer claims Austrian salt miners - NOT George Clooney's 'Monuments Men' - saved priceless works of art from Nazis
  34. ^ "Historian at the Movies: The Monuments Men reviewed". History Extra. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 

External links[edit]