Back to IndieWire

Why I Walked Out of ‘The Monuments Men’

Why I Walked Out of 'The Monuments Men'

When I was in second grade, my father took me with him on a business trip to Paris. I remember our hotel, and I remember drinking chocolate milk and eating Veal Milanese at a restaurant off the Champs-Elysee. What I don’t remember is the Louvre. I went in the company of a hired guide while my dad spent the day in meetings, and the guide turned out to be a militant atheist who insisted on describing the museum’s religious art in unprepossessing secular terms. A painting of the Last Supper became a depiction of a bunch of guys in robes having dinner, and so on.

That’s how I felt watching George Clooney’s The Monuments Mena movie that proclaims the virtues of art while exhibiting none of them. Or to be more precise, its first 50ish minutes, which was about all I could stand. I don’t walk out of movies often — the last, I think, was Labor Day, and before that, The East — and never when I’m writing a review, though some movies might have been better off had I been set free earlier from their toxic embrace. Historically, I’ve been an “in for a penny, in for a pound” type, partly out of a sense of duty, partly because as a critic, you’re always waiting for the moment when a movie perfectly encapsulates its own worth or lack thereof, and you never know when that crucial piece of evidence may surface. But when I’m watching movies to see if they’re worth writing about, I’m trying to hew more closely to the New York Times‘ theater critic Walter Kerr’s famous dictum: “You don’t have to eat the whole apple to know it’s rotten.” (At Sundance, Jordan Hoffman took some brief heat for leaving The Raid 2 a few minutes before the end, but given that the movie was causing him physical discomfort at the time, it’s hard to see the final scenes might have changed.) There are too many good movies I don’t have time to watch to waste time on bad ones. 

With The Monuments Men, I’m pretty sure we’re looking at a rotten apple. Halfway through, it was clear that the movie lacked all but the faintest glimmer of life, that Clooney was determined to stick to the same bland master shots, the same monotonous rhythm, the he and his co-screenwriter Grant Heslov were determined not to give their talented cast anything to do. (Seriously, how is it possible to pair Bill Murray and Bob Balaban and come up with so little?) It probably didn’t help that it had been only six months since I saw John Frankenheimer’s The Train (on 35mm, yet), which like The Monuments Men concerns the fight to keep Germany’s retreating forces from taking the artistic treasures of France (and, in the latter movie, central Europe) with them.

Of course The Train is more exciting, concentrating at it does on Burt Lancaster’s French Resistance fighter rather than the gun-toting art scholars of The Monument Men. But for all its contrived (and thrilling) set pieces, The Train also delves more deeply into the issues of what art means, the priceless heritage it embodies even for those who do not, so to speak, appreciate it. Clooney and Heslov cram that sentiment into a ponderous monologue, delivered by Clooney’s character, about how if you destroy a people’s heritage, “it’s like they never existed. It’s like ash, floating.” But The Monuments Men‘s flat division between corpulent, swinish Germans and art-loving Allies pales beside The Train‘s more provocative dichotomy between an erudite German officer and Lancaster’s burly man of action, who fights for the art’s return without understanding its worth.

But anyway, enough from me and my ejector seat. Here’s what some critics who stuck it out to the end thought.

Scott Foundas, Variety

It’s not only the great works of European art that have gone missing in The Monuments Men; the spark of writer-director-star George Clooney’s filmmaking is absent, too…. Clooney has transformed a fascinating true-life tale into an exceedingly dull and dreary caper pic cum art-appreciation seminar — a museum-piece movie about museum people. 

Ty Burr, Boston Globe

The movie should work like a pip. Instead, The Monuments Men is a labored mishmash of tones: Half Hogan’s Post-Doctoral Heroes, half Saving Private Rembrandt, and half Ingres’ 11. That’s three halves, so you can see the problem.

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

It’s Clooney’s first bonafide stab at a Spielberg moment: an attempt to render a dour subject in sugary, feel-good terms. Due to the unquestionably profound implications of its characters’ mission, The Monuments Men succeeds at doing that much while creating a distancing effect through its rosy lens. Smothered by its lighthearted approach, The Monuments Men attempts to make a grand statement about the valiance of dying for the sake of art, but fails to create it.

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Something less than monumental, The Monuments Men wears its noble purpose on its sleeve when either greater grit or more irreverence could have spun the same tale to modern audiences with more punch and no loss of import.

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

The whole film, with its unfashionable techniques (slow fades and dissolves by the dozen) and uber-relaxed, old-school vibe, almost works. Yet Clooney’s attempt to honor unsung real-life heroes while recapturing the ensemble pleasures of some well-remembered Hollywood war pictures, notably The Great Escape and The Guns of Navarone, comes off as a modestly accomplished forgery at best.

Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice

The Monuments Men fails in its grand ambitions, but it’s still satisfying in bits and pieces, like a busted statue. Even a tribute made of shining fragments counts for something.

Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush

In between the Balaban/Murray yuks and the race against the mustache-twirling Russian “trophy brigades,” Clooney goes heavy into Good Night, and Good Luck. territory, literally lecturing us. The passion comes through and the movie ends with the Schindler’s List shot and swell of emotion that may just convince you. They don’t make ’em like that anymore!

David Edelstein, New York

I can’t predict if there will be a huge audience for The Monuments Men, but in its way it’s a great piece of escapism. As Iraq explodes (we broke it, we didn’t buy it) and Afghanistan metes out madness and death once again to hubristic occupiers, World War II grows even larger in our hearts. Clooney wants us to agree that liberating the Madonna of Ghent from godless Nazi murderers was maybe our last selfless act as a nation in the theater of war. It’s a pipe dream of decency in a world that has lost its moral compass.

This Article is related to: Features



The Monuments Men is a waste of time.


This was clearly a low budget favor where Señor Clooney was repaying a favor. This one probably came in under 1 million. The worst green screening ever. Every shot with green screen (most of the movie) was glaringly obvious. They supposedly spent lots of time in post trying to correct this, I think they just put it on some intern and went out for cocktails. What a waste of talent this movie is. I hope this costs George a bunch of money and style points.


I saw this a while ago with my 13 year old son. he, as I , was not impressed . what really ruined it for me was the full screen face closeup of the spectacled character blaspheming. not impressed. when your script is deadly dull blasphemy wont help it. I will never watch another g Clooney movie again and I will spread the word among all my Christian friends.


Where in this movie was there ANY excitement. Let us stop being wordy…..IT SUCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Danny Mitchell

I expect you walked out to get more clicks. There is no way this movie is bad enough to walk out of.


I watches this movie during a flight and fast-forwarded half of it. It's a bs propaganda movie and I don't know for long will we have to endure movies like this. I guess till hollywood stars-wannabe-directors stop licking jew a..


I have not read all of the preceding comments but I get the impression that almost nobody cares at all that a few good men put their lives at risk to preserve some important cultural treasures.
I say this because after nearly 70 years, this is the only major motion picture that depicts, not what they preserved, but the basic outline of the organization of men who did the job. I for one am thankful to Mr . Clooney for shedding some light on a forgotten piece of history.


Horrible. What a waste. Why did Bill Murray do this movie? I waited for it to….nvm i want my 90 minutes back


What a painful movie. Truly terrible. I wish I'd read this review before wasting 1 hour of my life.

Ed Reynolds

Our local daily critic also called the film a "Monumental Letdown". I'll bet these people have little appreciation for the "history" of these types of films. I'll also wager (at least our local guy) have never read the book the film is loosely based upon.

Look at the bright side: no nudity (unless you count a statue included); little swearing by other movies standards today. A lot of smoking (bad) but that's what people did back then.

The movie was informative and historic. And light-hearted. That is probably what ticked off the critics who were let down by it. They have little appreciation for the finer things in life.

Judging how well it did at the box office, I would not consider it a let down. I was entertained by the film as was my friend. I look forward to seeing it again when it comes to DVD later in May.


I'm sure you're actually a nice person so I just wanted to warn you that -based on this article alone- you sound like a pretentious blowhard.

Frank Rizzo

Funny, if I just got up and walked out of my job, I'd in all likelihood be fired.

Maybe you should pursue another line of work, sizzlechest.


Yeah a world that has lost its moral compass, craves shock value and blatancy would give a thumbs down fr a film like this. s what else is new folks?


Funny enough, I just went and saw this and walked out and I think it was probably around the 50 – 1 hour mark. This was probably the worst movie I've seen in a while. So disappointing that you could have that cast and the movie be sooooo bad.

Brutal Nero

This "Non-review" went off the rails in the first paragraph, when he mentions not remembering his visit to the Louvre, then proceeds to describe his experience at the Louvre. I almost walked out after that, but proceeded to read the whole thing anyway.


hay man!!! Why do you give false information to those who want to watch this film for free?
My computer had a virus because clicking on the link you provided!!!
if you want to watch this film for free you can see it in :

there you can watch the film for free without the need to pay, may be useful


I'm sure, unfortunately, that several critics who have torn apart "The Monuments Men" found "Leviathan" great – an insufferable piece of rubbish that's simply infuriating to watch and gives critics spasmic orgasms. Well, I'm certainly SO gonna watch "The Monuments Men" – all the way through! And I will forever regret that I didn't walk out of "Leviathan" (I know, can't compare apples and pears, still, I choose to, so suck it up), on one hand; On the other hand I'm glad I did the whole suffering, because now I'm one of the experts who have seen the abomination of a "film". Here is to you, critics: Just to see George Clooney I'm gonna suffer a lacking story, if necessary. Take "Gravity" … I mean, how much of greatness was in that story – if you leave out the outrageous technical value? How much did Georgie have to do there, huh? Greetings from Austria, home of art (and other worthwhile stuff).


even without seeing the movie i can bet that, typically in american media, the Russians (actually Soviets but westerners will never learn the difference anyway) are presented as gloomy scavengers who "rob" art from Europe and bring it to SU. the fact that SU lost 30% of its cultural treasures (an amount exceeding the european ones by far) is left out of course. i really hope that at least in Russia and eastern Europe they dont show the movie or at least cut it.


The theatre was packed, the people stayed to read the credits. I cried at several points. Family members saw it the following week, packed theatre – said the audience applauded at the end. I ordered the book. Maybe it means more to you if you've studied art history or understand that we come to know a culture and its people through their art – and when that is lost, their story is lost. America has no antiquities, no Da Vinci's and Michelangelos yet. The Pieta made me cry, so did this movie – and that is a positive comment.


Oops. I guess the title of the movie is Monuments Men, not Monument's Men. I don't know how to turn the title into italics in here, so I used quotation marks, also incorrect. Sorry. I still enjoy the movie, though.


I learned history that I knew nothing about, totally accurate or not. Now I can read further on the topic. I enjoyed the movie. I never saw "The Train," and have not read the book upon which the movie is based. I've seen other movies and read other books, just not those. I'm glad there were "Monument's Men" (and women).


If you walked out of at least two other movies since June of 2013 (which is about 8 months ago, FTR), then it is in no way truthful to say you don't walk out of movies often. My parents, who walked out on one movie ever, can say that. My wife and I, who have walked out on two (both found footage shaky cam – felt like puking) each, can say that.
You walk out on movies regularly. You walk out on movies often. This is fine – if your response to a movie you don't like is to just call it a day and leave I will never say you shouldn't. Life is too short to sit through another hour of entertainment you don't like just because you've already paid the ticket. But please be honest – you walk out of movies, a lot.


It's a review.

It's the type of lazy review that screams out "I'm NOT a review! But I still want to give you my opinion on the film… It sucked. I didn't finish the film because I basically threw a hissy fit [ME! ME! ME! "insert childhood memories here* ME! ME! ME!] and walked out before the credits rolled, but it SUCKED!" Seriously, don't give an opinion on a film you haven't seen all the way through. It's not fair to the filmmakers or to your colleagues (you know, film critics who've actually done their job properly).

You should always stay in your seat until the credits have rolled.

The Guys

The Monument Men may have been missing a few bits and may have benefited from having it cut together like a classic WWII media reel for the cinema… for more movie review content check out Hey You Guys Podcast you can find us at "hey you guys podcast." and on iTunes and Sticher. Let us know what you think!

Wicked Goblin King

It's not that is missing anything. It's that this movie has something different to offer, something that as a modern audience we have forgotten how to appreciate. Maybe blame it on the edit if your going to say it was not the right mix, but like a film reel depicting the efforts of WWII… Here we get slivers of what theses men did and how eventually it culminated into something great. Life does not always have over arching events that span perfectly from end to end, it is jumbled and shaping its self around you…

John Duggins

You walked out of The East?

Hg Wells

Too bad the movie is getting such terrible reviews because the story of the Monuments Men is interesting. I'm personally looking forward to a related book, The Noble Sculptor (website of the same name) that’s coming out. I’m on the list to know when the book is released. It has a story of one of the Monuments Men in Italy, but the real story is about that Monuments Man’s father who was a hero during WWII at the time. That guy was credited with saving over 600 Allied troops trying to escape the Germans in Italy. That sounds more interesting an likely a much better movie.


The trailers already make the film seem lame, bland, and boring. Pass.


The book is great. I have no idea why Clooney ignored all of their interesting back stories, one guy started the New York Ballet! Also didn't need impassioned speeches from George on the value of art, I know it is important. For many survivors of the Holocaust these paintings were all they had left of their families.


so… you didn't like it because it wasn't as good as another movie… okay…

Simon Crowe

This is a cynical piece of writing. You weren't reviewing the film in an official capacity so perhaps you were under no professional obligation to stay, but your post goes into specific issues with the film and compares it unfavorably to another film in the genre. Was the connection to the incident in your childhood really so profound as to inspire this post, or did you know it would generate attention and traffic? I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say it was a bit of both.


Ha: well since Clooney morphs more and more into an insufferable douchebag is it any wonder he finally cranked out a movie only an insufferable douchebag could love? The entire vibe I get from this 'film' is that it is Clooney's "look at me! I'm an artiste!" moment. I am so tired of the whole Clooney spiel – the whole I don't make movies for the money – I have "FU' money so my art is somehow elevated to a higher level of purity.
Perhaps it takes a stinker like this to bring the guy back to a level of self awareness that will make him the guy folks ( like me) rooted for earlier in his career. Although Lord knows I'm not counting on it: here's betting I read a Clooney interview where he blames this movie's stinker status on critics and movie-going public who weren't ready for the level of intellect this movie requires.


"I don't walk out of movies often — the last, I think, was Labor Day, and before that, The East" – that's ridiculous because a) it seems to happen often after all because both movies came out only a couple of months ago, b) both films may not be perfect but, believe it or not, there are much, much worse. Walking out as a journalist is unprofessional, period. If watching movies is such a torture for you, find a new job. I sat through "Act Of Valor" even though it caused me almost physical pain.


Sam, you probably shouldn't have written the "More reviews of The Monuments Men" line. The people in the comments mistaking this for a review obviously skimmed through the article and landed on that last line.


I was already planning to skip this film since they erased women from history. That's what I don't have time for. I also think this is an interesting topic, walking out, and as it's not a review but an account of the critic's experience I'm fine with it – as a one-off.

Craig Kennedy

Why I Didn't Finish Reading Sam Adams' Piece on Monuments Men

Because an opinion about something you haven't fully experienced doesn't mean much.

Having said that, this isn't a review per se and it appears to be a perfectly reasonable take where the caveat is right there in the headline. There's nothing worse than a review where the writer admits at the very end they walked out on a film, but Adams doesn't do that.

It would be regrettable if Adams' negative response is measured in review aggregates, but that's another story.

Dixon Steele

Yours may not have been the "official" review, but you're still a known critic and you just shit all over a movie. In writing.

It may not be THE review but it's still a review.

Alan Smithee

Its funny that film critics make me feel like a movie I'd like to walk out of. They spend thirty minutes writing about a movie that had been years in the making, and truly believe they are able to advice avarage cinemagoers with their superficial knowledge about whats "rotten" and whats not. Since I've read my first film review when I was little, I have never read a second one Maybe because I already realized back in the days that some of them must be failed film makers themselve. Why else would they sound so semi-professional and have so different opinions about a single movie.

Now go ahead dear critics, but please, please don't ever take money for it. No cookie for that man.


I've read reviews by professional critics who hated a film, proceed to rip it up and down, and then drop in the tiny tidbit that they didn't even sit through the whole movie. That makes me sick. That is wrong.

This is not what is happening here. This is a writer writing about his experience with a film, not a review of the film itself. Its a telling anecdote, and I guess one could skew this as a reason to see or not see the film (if proper reviews really have that much sway over them), but this is not a review. The tagline on the FB link I followed over here ("Can critics write about movies without staying through the end credits?") is doing you no favors, though, Sam – except to be misleading about the content of the article and to drive traffic. Which I guess its doing perfectly. The unintended consequence, of course, is that you now have idiots calling you a "douchebag".

Anyway, I did take the time to read the article and see it for what it is: not a review. Good work, and keep up the honesty.


Dear Idiot Commenters: Let's make a deal. Sam will go back and watch all of MONUMENTS MEN. In return, YOU will bother to read his article in full before commenting. Is that fair?


Hilarious, FP. "Your" movies are so monumentally great that walking out of them demands the punishments of torture porn movies. Since you raised the issue, is it also a mortal sin to walk out of torture porn? Or are viewers morally bound to sit through sadistic exploitative trash as well, as long as the producer would rather you stay?

And who have ever thought that watching movies for nothing is one of the great privileges of the age? How dare a critic (or anyone else?) walk out of a movie, any movie, when children all over the world are starving for movies! Or paying netflix subscriptions! Perhaps we need a UN Commission to ensure that not one even child goes to bed without a movie.

It's also fascinating to learn that of 3 movies in 7 months is "excessive". Who would have thought there was a quota. Perhaps we could set up a permission counsel. Before you can walk out of a movie, you need a pre-authorization, with numbers strictly limited, otherwise, it's SAW for you.

Matt Zoller Seitz

Jason: "How are all of you so dumb as to not realize this isn't a review?"

What Jason said.


Sam, I generally like reading your stuff but this is the kind of admission that not only makes me want to dismiss you outright as a critic, but dismiss you as an overly entitled douchebag. You get to make a living, in part, talking about watching a movie. Millions of unemployed people watch Netflix all day and pay for the privilege. Families pay nearly $100 in some markets to take their kids to see the latest animated film in 3D. For you to claim that you've walked out on 3 films in the last 7 months and do so without recognizing how excessive that is, is to say you're over the job. I've walked out on less films in theatres in a lifetime than you have in 1 year. And you saw them for free.

I won't even get into the response I have as a producer, because the levels of SAW-like torture I'd put you through if you did that to one of my films would be too graphic for words. Hopefully Grant Heslov has a milder reaction than I would.

Ken B.

Haven't seen it and now don't intend to so thanks for the heads-up…which is too bad as it's an interesting subject. I could EASILY tell from the numerous hokey, hack-written preview bites I've seen on tv that this was a stinker.


Can a music critic write about half an album? Can an art critic share his opinion about half an exhibition? Idiot… makes me want to watch the movie


This is a pathetic review.

1. It's pathetic that a film reviewer doesn't believe it's worth his time to sit through the end of a film. Pathetic. How can you call yourself a film critic? I doubt this film was repulsive (the only potential excuse for walking out). How can you call yourself professional? Even a high school student could write a better review.
2. The Train is indeed a good film (the only redeeming part of your review)
3. Your anecdote about the Louvre is irrelevant to a review about this movie except that you have an irreverence for art (great disclaimer)
4. I am never trusting 'indiewire" reviews. They are rarely original, do not provide insight, and are self-righteous
5. Why are you a film critic again?


I also like to make sure that I tell you in what format that I watch movies in. For instance tranformers movies are great in 35mm. Because whatching a movie in 35mm improvew the writing and acting. I mean we all know if you view a movie that was originally on vhs but got upgraded to blue ray it makes the writing, directing, and acting much better. So when i watch older movies I always tell you what format I watched them in.


How are all of you so dumb as to not realize this isn't a review? I last walked out of "Not Fade Away". Boy was that one terrible.


What I love is how wrong critics are wrong all the time. You get paid by the word so you have nothing of value to say.


I have only seen the trailer but from my personal experience as a child I think it's one of the best movies ever. Since I haven't actually seen the movie in its completed form here are some critics who did there job and watched the film. Also these critics listed share my point of view that the movie was great. See what I did their.


If you can't sit through a film like The Monuments Men, then I can't take you seriously as a critic. In fact, it makes me angry they would give someone the job of being a professional critic and you can't even sit through it until the end. Seriously, there is nothing offensively bad and nothing made you physically uncomfortable (like the critic who left The Raid 2). Ebert sat through films that he hated, such as Blue Velvet and A Clockwork Orange, and he was offended by their content. You're not going to like every film you watch, but if you're going to be a critic, and you're getting paid for it, then you damn well better sit through all the way until the end. Some movies also redeem themselves in the second half. Take for example The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Did I think it was amazing? No. But the second half picks up and at least becomes more interesting. And the final shot of The Wolf of Wall Street gives purpose to the entire film.

So if you are a serious lover of cinema, you will definitely stick it out until the end. Especially for a movie that simply bored you like The Monuments Men.


No problem with leaving a movie early, but walking out of "Labor Day" and "The East"? What do you do when you're watching a really awful movie? Set the screen on fire?


If it wasn't for half the third paragraph of the text this wouldn't qualify as a review at all. Thankfully I feel like now I know a little more about the author's childhood and idiosyncrasy which is what I came here for in the first place.


Sam, I respect your writing and what you contribute to the critic community, but revealing that you walked out on a movie you're reviewing sounds like something Rex Reed would do. I understand you make up for it by sharing excerpts from other reviews, but this article definitely caused me physical discomfort.


I don't walk out of movies often… I think the last time was Labor Day and that was a while week ago.


Are we also going to mention the complete lack of female presence apart from Care Blanchett? It's another "boys club" from Clooney, despite the fact that 20-30% of the real like Monuments Men were women. Will definitely be skipping this one.


after wasting 1and 1/2 hrs on Labor Day not risking it this time – thanxs for the warning

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *