Good news for film fans: The George Clooney-Grant Heslov partnership is alive and well. The Monuments Men, directed by Clooney and co-written and co-produced by Heslov, just released its first trailer, and it tells a true story that seems almost too far-fetched to believe.
The movie is based on Robert Edsel’s book of the same name about the efforts of seven of the so-called “Monuments Men” (formally, the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program), an Allied force of about 400 men and women tasked with locating and protecting cultural treasures threatened by the Nazi regime. In short, these Ivy League art professors, museum curators, and art historians, often without formal supervision, braved the trenches of World War II to ensure the survival of Europe’s cultural history. After learning about this, George Clooney had the same thought any sane person would: Sounds like a movie.
But is Clooney on the hunt for anything more? Until now, his directorial career has mirrored his frequent social activism: The probing Good Night, and Good Luck and the cynical Ides of March were explicit in their political messages. Those movies also gunned for Oscars, and Oscar prognosticators have been expecting a similar campaign from his latest feature.
Monuments Men, however, seems bereft of agenda, and concerned much more with old-fashioned Hollywood entertainment—not quite as playful (or bad, hopefully) as Clooney’s Leatherheads, but still aimed at delivering laughs and adventure. From the trailer, the film doesn’t seem to be baiting Oscar, but the pitch to buddy Matt Damon must have been simple: “It’s Ocean’s Eleven meets Saving Private Ryan, and in between takes we can hang with John Goodman, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett!”
Damon was down, and so am I.