I have a very clear picture in my head—I didn’t say it was accurate, just clear. It’s George Clooney and Matt Damon at a high-end steakhouse. They eat giant ribeyes and the maitre d' gives George two long puffs on a Cuban before he insists he put it out. Then George tells Matt that it’s been too long since they had a guys’ trip cleverly disguised as a movie, and—as fun as it may be—Ocean’s Fourteen seems out of the question. So, they round up a great group of actors and find themselves a suitably manly script and…show time!
Here, Clooney plays Frank Stokes, an art scholar who has seized on the fact that throughout Germany’s assault on Western Europe, billions of dollars of fine art have been stolen. Hitler is committed to creating his own museum filled with the world’s most significant works, and he invades countries and the private collections of wealthy Jewish families to do so. Stokes enlists a group of men to go to Europe as the war closes and retrieve the stolen art. He teams up with his old friend, James Granger (Damon), architect Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman) and others.
Generally, I like Clooney’s films. Seemingly much like his personal life, he likes to keep it light. The problem here is that the subject is not light. Aside from the loss of life, this particular aspect of World War II has to be the most profoundly disturbing. The Nazis attempted to either lay claim to or destroy world culture, and the film briefly dances with the notion of the value of life versus art. In the end, the movie simply tells a happy tale of a good deed—not since Hogan’s Heroes has Nazi Germany received such lighthearted treatment. The movie is fine, but it should have been a powerful, moving and heroic film. It could have been a classic, instead it was a romp. It’s a 6.