Based on the novel by Dalton Trumbo, this disturbing antiwar film chronicles the tragic fate of a World War I soldier (Timothy Bottoms) who survives a mortar shell only to have lost his arms, legs, ears, eyes, nose and mouth. Initially, he doesn’t know whether he’s dead, alive or dreaming. And though he can’t hear, see or speak, he learns how to communicate his most fervent wish: to be taken on tour as evidence of the horrors of war. The movie also features Donald Sutherland (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Without Limits).
Rating: 3 out of 10
In many circles, people consider this film to be a classic. Having never seen it before, I was able to judge Dalton Trumbo’s film from the perspective of how well it has aged to the year 2010. And to that end, my answer is not very well.
“Johnny Got His Gun” is probably just as famous for being the inspiration for the song and music video to Metallica’s “One” as it is an anti-war sentiment from the middle of the 20th century. It tries to give you perspective on the damage war can create through the eyes (or lack thereof) of a disfigured soldier who was injured from a mortar blast in a foxhole on the last day of World War I.
I’d love to have read the novel and probably will. I’m sure it works much better in written form where you aren’t annoyed by bad camerawork, amateurish direction, and horrendous acting. Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show), plays the lead and never comes across as believable — especially during his narration. The bulk of the story is told through fuzzy flashbacks that try to give you some perspective of Joe’s background to possibly create sympathy for the characters. The problem is that the timeline is so badly executed and boring that you’re yawning by the time you get back to the present. You’re basically caught between sympathy and boredom for two straight hours. It’s not exactly what I call classic filmmaking.