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          Before December, George Clooney’s The Monuments Men was a top contender for the Academy Award for Best Picture. On paper it seemed like the perfect Oscar film: a period piece, big names actors, and a true story. It seemed very odd that any studio would push back such a clear Oscar film, but director George Clooney seemed to be committed enough to telling the Monument Men story that he would release it when he felt the film was finished. While, The Monuments Men won’t be a contender for next year’s Oscar, it is a very enjoyable and well told story.

          George Clooney has established himself as one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, as well as one of the best writers, directors, and producers. Clooney’s style and presence is felt throughout the film and his passion for the film is evident. While the beginning of the film is undoubtedly slow, Clooney manages to get the story going and has fun doing it. The Monument Men has a fair amount of humor that works very well with the expert cast, but it does tend to shy away from some of the darker moments. While are there are some great montages of destroyed art and the efforts of the heroes, many scenes aren’t as emotional as they could have been. While Clooney does an excellent job avoiding melodrama and over dramatizing the events, a few moments could have had more emotion. Additionally, there is a lack of tension throughout that harms the film. However, it is very clear that Clooney feels strongly about telling this story and he does his best to tell it.

          Much of the hype behind The Monuments Men is its incredible cast. The great thing about The Monuments Men’s cast is that is a true ensemble with no real main character. While that could be a flaw if done by a lesser director, Clooney does a great job of giving each character enough screen time and getting great performances out of his entire cast. While there is an obvious lack of background on each character, each character becomes familiar and well known by the end of the film and gives the audience great heroes to root for.

          The performances themselves are excellent. Clooney is excellent, and carries the thematic elements of the film excellently in several great monologues. Matt Damon is also fantastic and although not given much to do until the third act, manages to make the most of all of his scenes and steals each and every one of his scenes. Cate Blanchette’s role is very similar, as she delivers a great performance and plays off Damon very well. However, the film’s best dynamic is the marvelous performances of John Goodman and Jean Dujardin, who play off each other excellently and give a great blend of comedy and drama, as well as carrying the film’s emotional highlights and emphasize the film’s themes. If The Monuments Men manages to get any Academy Award nominations, Dujardin would be an excellent choice for Best Supporting Actor.

          There are also great supporting performances from Hugh Bonneville, Bill Murray, and Bob Balaban. These performances help the film’s ensemble and have enough depth to be relatable and enjoyable, but don’t steal the show in the way the others do. The film’s pacing is slow to start out, but once the adventure starts the plot gets interesting and the performances get to shine. The score is triumphant and patriotic, and while it isn’t anything remarkably original, it definitely works for the film and aids the film in montages. The cinematography is beautiful, as is the visual style and lighting of the film.

          The Monuments Men is a welcome surprise to the February line up with excellent performances and a great story. While there are certainly flaws, there is a tangible and engaging sense to the film that makes it enjoyable to watch. Clooney continues to prove his worth in Hollywood as The Monuments Men is another good film. While it’s not saying much considering the line up so far, The Monuments Men is the best film of the year so far. Grade: B