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The Monuments Men
  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat
  • Sony Classical / 2014 / 61m

George Clooney and pals are in a WWII platoon charged with reuniting with their rightful owners artworks stolen by the Nazis in The Monuments Men.  Clooney directed himself and the film has proved to be a rare critical misfire.  The lacklustre reception for the film has spilled over to the score, with Alexandre Desplat receiving some very rare criticism from more mainstream movie reviewers.  Fortunately, on album, the composer’s work comes across as absolutely delightful.  The album opens with beautiful Americana in “The Roosevelt Mission”, reminiscent of John Williams’s recent scores, before unleashing its greatest weapon in the opening titles piece which follows, a brilliant and highly memorable march which seems to be evoking all those great British war movie scores by the likes of Ron Goodwin.  In “Basic Training”, the composer preludes the main melody with a subtheme evoking Elmer Bernstein’s comedy scores.  “Stokes Talks” is a surprising variant, a very warm, lovely piano arrangement.

There’s a lot more here, too – more modern-sounding action music in “Ghent Altarpiece”, then the brilliant “Champagne” in which a gossamer-thin melody gives way to strident action; later, “Sniper” is another terrific action piece, a bustling militaristic motif becoming ever more urgent, cleverly accompanied at times by a subtle piano variant on the main theme.  The more serious of the main themes (the one which opened the album) receives a number of very fine arrangements, such as the genuinely lovely “Normandy” and in slightly altered form in “Deauville”, a cue most typical of Desplat – elegant, Gallic, beautiful.  Throughout the score, it’s very impressive how the composer moves from lighthearted moments to more serious ones; the affecting “Jean-Claude Dies” perhaps the best example, the familiar main theme warm and moving in this arrangement.  The way he brings all the score’s main ideas together for the nine-minute “Finale” is quite brilliant; so too, the whistled version of the main theme he holds back until the end titles.  This is the kind of score to put a smile on your face, paying a respectful nod to various classics even as the composer puts his own unmistakable stamp on it, much as George Fenton did a few years ago in Valiant.  A real treat.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Monday 10 March, 2014 at 00:43

    Have you seen the film? Desplat actually has a cameo and a few choice lines!

  2. Mikal (Reply) on Wednesday 12 March, 2014 at 04:45

    I like how your two most recent reviews feature Matt Damon on the cover and have very similar color palettes. 🙂

  3. Donald (Reply) on Tuesday 26 November, 2019 at 03:55

    For my wife and me, the score was ridiculously lightweight, too upbeat for the mission, and too reminiscent of Bridge Over the River Kwai and even Hogan’s Heroes themes. I love Desplat’s others scores, whether Harry Potter or Fantastic Mr. Fox, or Venus in Fur, but this one is a dud in our book.