Johnny Got His Gun (1971)

Genres - War  |   Sub-Genres - Anti-War Film, Message Movie, Social Problem Film, War Drama  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Though he wrote the novel in 1939, when Hollywood Ten survivor Dalton Trumbo finally got to transform Johnny Got His Gun (1971) into a film, it had become all the more timely. A relentlessly grim antiwar allegory about a World War I soldier left with only his mind intact, Johnny Got His Gun spoke to the Vietnam era disgust with the hollow homilies about democracy and duty that only lead to personal annihilation. Trumbo's thought-provoking message about the deleterious effects of social and military myopia, however, is undermined by his own weaknesses as a first-time director. Though the central black-and-white images of Timothy Bottoms' faceless, armless, and legless Joe carry undeniable power, underscored by a padre's well-spoken assessment of the military's dehumanizing don't ask/don't tell attitude, Joe's color flashbacks and fantasies are a muddled, pretentious mess. The performances, including Jason Robards as Joe's father, Donald Sutherland as Jesus Christ, and Kathy Fields as The Girl, are similarly a mix of touching emotion and stilted theatrics. Regardless, Johnny Got His Gun won a prize at Cannes and remains a strikingly antiestablishment document. Health problems prevented Trumbo from directing again before he died in 1976.