Feb 7, 2014
REVIEW: THE MONUMENTS MEN
When a movie as such as stiff as George Clooney’s The Monuments Men, it becomes an object of fascination in its own right— like your first glimpse of a dead body. It's stillness is mesmerizing... as if Clooney feared that any sudden noise or action would wake his performers up. It speaks to the energy levels of the film that when Balaban and Murray come across a frightened German youth with a gun, Murray resolves the stand-off by asking inviting all to sit on the grass and be quiet for a minute, and soon they are all puffing on a cigarette — a very Clooneyesque moment, you can’t help but feel, all conflict resolved in a blur of geniality. He must be the only director in America who to use Bill Murray as an emollient. This is his fifth film and it’s by now apparent that his great flaw as a director is what makes him interesting as a movie star: he disdains conflict as a means of generating drama. For Clooney, all conflict means stupidity and there’s no crime in his book worse than stupidity, no argument that can’t be settled agreeably between agreeable men over a brandy snifter. I wonder, though, if his brand of intelligence isn’t the greater liability in a director. The great directors — Huston, Ford, Hawks, Peckinpah — were ornery old dogs, barkers and borderline crazies, unbound by the need to be liked, howling at the moon to get their vision in place. Clooney puts movies to sleep with his reasonableness. I know Goodnight and Good Luck had its fans, but I can't now remember a single scene from that film, outside a generalized impression of men in darkened rooms, smoking, remonstrating and reasoning with one another — a vision of sotte voce cinema, void of unnecessary exposition, where drama means never having to raise your voice unnecessarily.