Johnny Got His Gun

Starring: Timothy Bottoms, Jason Robards and Donald Sutherland
Arrow Films/Fremantle Home Entertainment
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 07 June 2004

A young American soldier, tragically hit by a shell on the last day of the First World War, lies in a hospital bed, a quadruple amputee who has also lost his eyes, ears, mouth and nose. Remaining conscious, and still able to reason, he tries to communicate to his doctors his wish that he be put on show in a carnival as a demonstration of the full horrors of war...

Johnny Got His Gun was the only movie that Dalton Trumbo directed - although he was responsible for writing a number of well received films including Sparticus, Papillon and Roman Holiday.

Stylistically this movie is interesting. Usually in films where colour changes are used to differentiate the past and present the director opts for black and white for the past and colour for the current events. However, Trumbo reverses this visual style so that colour now represents the past. This is probably down to the fact that most of the events that lead to Joe being in hospital are told in flashback form.

And it's not really about the horrors of war, there are several different threads including the relationship between Joe and his father that are investigated, but on reflection a lot of the other plot developments that are explored add nothing to the story and just pad out the story. The acting is also very patchy in places which doesn't help matters.

This movie is a little too slow moving for today's action hungry audiences and not touching enough to act as a romantic/tragic film. The conclusion is not only moving, but truly terrifying - the lessons that should have been learnt after the war - man's inhumanity to man - continues unabated.

The DVD could have done with a few extras. There isn't even a subtitle option for the hard of hearing.

This is a powerful, and moving picture but it hasn't aged as well as it could have.

Ray Thompson

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