The Monuments Men–Stripes 2 or Ocean’s 14?

Bill Murray not in Stripes

It’s not a title that, by itself, will draw crowds to the theater.  But how often does a movie have much more than one reason to get you into the theater to see it?  Maybe its an actor you love, a genre, the fact it is based on a book or property you’re interested in.  The Monuments Men, with its first trailer released this past week, has almost too many reasons to see it to count.  “In a race against time, a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them.”  Yep, it’s not about Mount Rushmore.  So let’s take a quick look at what this movie has to offer, to bring in viewers for different reasons.

Everyone is always trying to make a war movie that’s not a war movie, add some twist to the genre to make it slightly different to entice new crowds to give war movies a try.  Saving Private Ryan tried it, making a war movie into more of a kidnapping film with the modern trend toward challenging the components of war vs the old Frank Capra-type pro-nationalism films.  And how unique was Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds?  In fact, if Brad Pitt hadn’t starred in that movie, you’d think he’d have been a shoo-in for The Monuments Men.  Why?  Because with George Clooney and Matt Damon in pursuit of a seemingly impossible goal, this looks like Ocean’s Eleven all over again.

John Goodman Monuments Men

And speaking of impossible goals, this also looks like The Dirty Dozen, although the trailer tells us there’s eight soldiers engaged in this mission.  Who isn’t ready for another movie of the Dirty Dozen variety?  Remember how good the beginning of Captain America: The First Avenger was with Tommy Lee Jones as a general in the World War II recruitment scenes?  Or go back to Bridge on the River Kwai and recruiting William Holden to go back to the battle.  Of course these are all plays on the original Western recruiting warriors film, Seven Samurai.  And just look who gets recruited for this new mission.

Bill Murray?  As a soldier?  Who hasn’t watched Stripes 1,000 times?  Just look at Murray as a soldier again, especially that hint of goofiness in the trailer.  Stripes 2?  OK, Stripes took place years later, but Murray as an older soldier is exactly what we want to see.  Good call!

The Monuments Men

John Goodman?  Goodman looks like his role is pretty key in this film if the trailer is divvying up screentime appropriately.  Goodman was great as a pilot in Always, and we love him in these bit roles like his great performance last year in Argo.  Another good call.

Of course with George Clooney and Matt Damon in the lead roles you know we’ve got a good story behind it.  These guys have become so reliable at picking good scripts you can always bet on their films to entertain.  Here we have the modern take on war, yet with a true story out of the annals of WWII–historians trying to make sure the cultural relics of conquered peoples are rescued from destruction.  Fans of sci-fi writer Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog and the two-book war series of Blackout and All Clear will be interested in this look back into history for historic treasures of wartime.

Yes thats Clooney in The Monuments Men

Look at the other key cast members.  Bob Balaban, co-star of Close Encounters of the Third Kind has had many role on Hollywood inside and out of acting, and it’s great seeing him in another film.  And another reason to see this one in the theater?  There’s Cate Blanchett, who brings star status to any role she plays.

So check out this first trailer for The Monuments Men:

The Monuments Men hits theaters December 18, 2013.

C.J. Bunce

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