This film plays it pretty straight. No surprises, and if anything, it seems to be a bit lacking in humor. Which is odd, considering George Clooney, John Goodman and Bill Murray figure prominently in the action. All things considered, this seems to be an earnest attempt at storytelling. The film is about the true story of how the Allied forces retrieved some of the great art pieces of Europe.
The criticism lies when people expect too much. The operative phrase at the beginning of the movie is this film is based on a true story. Therefore, all the elements of storytelling include the writers perspective, the directors point of view, a certain slant from which the story is told, etc…
And yes, there’s a bit of “hoke” in parts of the plot, but really not enough to make one wince or engage in eye-rolling. Sometimes “it is what it is” is truly…what it is! In this case, the story does involve the fact that Adolph Hitler really did try to swallow whole all of the greatest art treasures of Europe. And the Allied Forces really did do something seemingly altruistic by hunting down and returning many of the treasures of European Art Culture. These are the set of facts the filmmakers worked with and the result is an interesting if not uber-remarkable tale.
This is a war story and it does have some scenes of death and destruction across Europe. But the large part of this tale is a war story without blood and guts. It’s about some of the intangible stuff that makes life worth living and worth fighting and dying for. That really does seem to be the point.
Simply and sparsely told, the film deals with those things often lying on the periphery of the action. It’s about those unseen boundaries and the unforeseen consequences of war-and those with vision enough to live beyond their own place and time. Perhaps the takeaway from this is that such vision is still needed in places where people still feel the effects of war in their everyday lives.