The Monuments Men (2014)
An unlikely World War II platoon is tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners.
Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys - seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 - possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind's greatest achievements.
During World War II, Frank Stokes learns that Hitler is stealing all of the great works of art for his personal museum. So with permission from Roosevelt, Stokes recruits 6 men who are each art experts and they go to Europe under the guise of being soldiers to find out where the art that was taken is. And when some of them die while trying to do it; it becomes personal for the rest to finish what they started. And things get dire when the Germans are ordered to burn the art if they lose the war. And the Russians are also out to get the art for themselves.
In 1943, the American Professor Frank Stokes convinces President Roosevelt that the art stolen by the German should be retrieved and he recruits six art experts to form the Monuments Men's unit to travel to Europe with him to search the treasures. On the arrival, they split to several cities to guide the Allies to find the arts to return them to the owners.
1944. With the tide of WW2 turning against Germany, the Allies set up a team to find and retrieve hordes of priceless art, stolen by the Germans during their occupation of Europe. Due to the fear that the Germans will destroy the artworks, the team need to be as close to the frontlines as possible, putting them in great danger.
Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History to tell the incredible story of the seven art historians and museum curators who went behind enemy lines during World War II on a mission to recover some of the world's greatest works of art. With war raging in Europe, the Nazis have managed to plunder some of the biggest art collections on the continent. As the Third Reich begins to topple, the German army receives explicit orders that in the event of Adolf Hitler's death, they are to destroy every work of art in their possession. Determined to prevent 1000 years of culture from going up in flames, American president Franklin D. Roosevelt approves a proposal by Frank Stokes (Clooney) to form a task force comprised entirely of art experts to enter Germany, recover the works of art, and ensure they are returned to their rightful owners. With little knowledge of modern weapons or warfare tactics, the ragtag squadron has their work cut out for them..
- In 1943 during World War II, the Allies are making good progress driving back the Axis powers in Italy. However, Frank Stokes (George Clooney) persuades the US President that victory will have little meaning if the art treasures of Western civilization are lost in the fighting, either as collateral damage in combat or looted. To minimize that threat, Stokes is directed to assemble an Army unit nicknamed the "Monuments Men" comprising seven museum directors, curators, and art historians to both guide Allied units and search for stolen art to return it to the rightful owners.
In occupied France, Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), a curator in Paris, is forced to allow Nazi officers like Viktor Stahl (Justus von Dohnányi) to oversee the theft of art for either Adolf Hitler's proposed Führermuseum in Linz, or as the personal property of senior commanders like Herman Goering. While she is nearly arrested for helping her Maquis brother unsuccessfully recapture such items, all seems lost when she discovers that Stahl is taking all of her gallery's contents to Germany as the Allies approach Paris. When she runs to the railyard to confront Stahl, he fires on her with his pistol; although she does not seek cover, she is not hit, but can only watch helplessly as Stahl escapes with the stolen artwork.
As for Stokes' unit, it finds its work is frustrated by its own side's combat units which refuse to restrict their tactical options for the sake of preserving architecture, while James Granger () finds that Simone will not cooperate with those whom she suspects are art looters themselves. The unit splits up for various objectives with varying degrees of success. Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) of the British Army attempts to arrange the safety of a Belgian church with valuable artwork and is killed attempting to prevent the Nazi Colonel Wegner from stealing a statue of the Madonna and Child by Michelangelo.
Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) attempt to track down a stolen Belgian panel set of religious artwork (the Van Eyck altarpiece looted from Ghent cathedral), and in doing so, find and arrest Viktor Stahl, hiding as a farmer, when they identify the paintings in his house as originals stolen from the Rothschild Collection; Savitz uncovers Stahl's loyalties by tricking his indoctrinated children into saluting Hitler when prompted with "Heil Hitler". Walter Garfield (John Goodman) and Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) blunder into a Wehrmacht patrol and Clermont is mortally wounded. Meanwhile, Simone reconsiders when Granger shows her the Nero Decree to destroy all German possessions if Hitler dies or Germany falls, and when she sees Granger return a painting looted from a Jewish family murdered in the death camps to its rightful place as a symbolic gesture. Realizing the Americans are serious in their intentions, she eventually provides a comprehensive ledger that provides valuable information to identify stolen art.
Even as the team learns that the artwork is being stored in various mines and castles, it also learns that it must now compete against the Soviet Union which has units of its own seizing artwork as war reparations. Meanwhile, Colonel Wegner is systematically removing and destroying whole art collections as per orders. Eventually, the team has some success as it discovers at least one mine with over 16,000 art pieces as well as grotesque caches such as barrels of gold teeth from victims of the death camps. In addition, it also discovers gold assets of the Nazi German national treasury, the capture of which effectively bankrupts the regime.
Finally, the team finds a mine in Austria that seems destroyed and is in what should become part of the Soviet occupation zone. However, the team discovers that only the entrances were damaged by the locals in order to fool the Nazis and it manages to gain entry even as its fellows delay the oncoming Soviets. As a result, the team evacuates as much artwork as possible, including the sculpture Jeffries died defending, before the Soviets arrive.
Finally, Stokes reports back to President Truman that the team has recovered vast quantities of artwork and various other culturally significant items. As he requests to stay in Europe to oversee further searching and restoration, Truman asks Stokes if his efforts were worth the lives of the men that he lost. Stokes firmly replies that they were.
In 1977, the elderly Stokes (Nick Clooney) takes his grandson to see Michelangelo's Madonna sculpture, amid large crowds of youth appreciating the pieces of humanity's creativity that his men sacrificed so much to preserve in war.