Ocean’s WWII, with a period tempo to boot
The Monuments Men Blu-ray Review
There’s a worthy message and an intriguingly atypical premise to this Clooney-driven ensemble drama but unfortunately it’s just lacking in the heart and soul department, rarely evidencing the courage of its convictions.Blending Indiana Jones with Saving Private Ryan, and boasting a cast to die for, you would think that The Monuments Men would be pure gold, but unfortunately it appears more determined to focus on period authenticity than compelling storytelling, caught up in the historical accuracy dictated by its true-story foundations, and frequently forgetting its own bigger picture mentality. Right from the outset, Clooney’s team leader (Old George taking the helm both in front of, and behind, the camera) is intent upon explaining to disbelieving superior officers the importance of preventing Europe’s art from being destroyed by a desperate Fuhrer, and yet he seems content to just peddle in bland fact, seldom displaying the kind of passion commensurate with such a task, and thus incapable of rousing an audience into getting behind his cause.His motley gang include a bunch of fellow art experts who commit to a supposedly dangerous mission to recover this fine art, but are then seldom placed in any actual, palpable danger. Sure, men fall along the way, but death seldom seems pervasive, and neither the Nazi remnant, nor the encroaching Russian contingent, who want the works for themselves, are painted as convincing threats. Without a relatable arc, or any underlying threat, we are left with a mediocre, watered-down tale whose biggest assets are a cast who only intermittently get to shine (Clooney and Damon doing their Ocean’s schtick, though Goodman, Murray and Dujardin get a few laughs too, but are just as wasted as Cate Blanchett’s non-starter would-be collaborator) and an exquisite production which is visually authentic in every way.
The Monuments Men Blu-ray Picture QualityThere’s no doubt that Monuments Men looks spectacular. Afforded the same Mastered in 4K High Definition video presentation as was promoted Stateside, the UK release presents the movie with a 1080p/AVC-encoded rendition in the film’s original theatrical aspect of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is staggeringly good, with the utmost clarity in every single shot, promoting fine skin textures and clothing weaves as impressively as the background flourishes, which help bolster the film’s resounding period authenticity.
Even if the story doesn’t compel, the stunning visuals are guaranteed to transport you back to the period.
The colour scheme is broad and rich, affording some lush greens and deep mahoganies against the wartorn backdrop, as well as healthy skin tones. Black levels are strong, allowing the few darker sequences to shine and the shadow detail within to remain unhindered. The image is untainted by digital defects – there are no signs of edge enhancement, excessive DNR application, banding, blocking or any other unruly artefacts – and this remains one of the best-looking recent productions. This is undoubtedly a demo, and reference, presentation through and through.
The Monuments Men Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is almost as impressive, boasting a well-balanced and soundly engineered soundscape that affords each and every element welcome room to breathe, and finds precision as valuable as power.
Monuments Men both looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout the piece, which is good news considering that this is a largely dialogue-driven affair. Effects are seldom intrusive, with a general war atmosphere crafted and disseminated through exquisite use of the surrounds and LFE channel. Shells land, machine guns spurt, and vehicles grind along with indefatigable intensity, whilst the rousing score provides a wonderful accompaniment, despite its charms and passion being frequently far more enthusiastic than the material it’s matched to. With excellent dynamics and surround usage, and enough punch and presence to engage throughout, this is demo territory for sure.
The Monuments Men Blu-ray ExtrasA small selection of Extra Features provides some background into the piece, with the 12-minute In Their Own Words – which focuses on the real-life veterans and the work they did – remaining the most compelling piece, whilst the 5-minute George Clooney’s Mission feels far more fluffy, the 8-minute Marshalling the Troops just looks at the ensemble cast; and the 4-minute A Woman Amongst the Monuments Men spends some time with Blanchett and her characters. The disc is rounded off by a couple of short Deleted Scenes and a Trailer.
Is The Monuments Men Blu-ray Worth BuyingDespite the worthy subject-matter, and the game ensemble cast, you'll be hard-pushed to find a pulse on The Monuments Men, which struggles to convince as to the passion behind the conviction to save these prized works of fine art at all cost, and instead gets lost in a misguided blend of comedy, farce, melancholy and supposed threat. Intermittently engaging, with spurts of well-placed humour, moments of tension and hints of gravitas, audiences deserved far better from Clooney and co.
A mediocre mixed bag, The Monuments Men looks and sounds authentic, but its heart and soul feel manufactured.
With stunning video and excellent audio, as well as a smattering of Extra Features, this is certainly a must-have release for fans of the film. Those intrigued by the Oceans-style cast and should go into it with controlled expectations, and should consider a rental first.
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