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Johnny Got His Gun Reviews

Page 2 of 20
May 29, 2014
Very crude, surreal war movie that's not actually about the war, but the aftermath of somebody obliterated by the horrors of war. It explores the absolutely worst-case scenario of being alive by not having any senses whatsoever, and just how that person manages to cope by living with their thoughts and dreams. The bizarre dream sequences and flashbacks really add to the protagonist's plight and state of mind, and although the some parts of the movie really feel dated, it actually contributes to the trippy nature of the film.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

March 25, 2014
"Johnny got his gun, his dog day's just begun; now everybody is on the run, because Johnny got his gun." Yeah, people, I just had to break out that cliché, because I'm actually not particularly fond of Metallica's "One"... at least in its studio form (Seriously, what is up with the mixing?), although, even when you take out of account the fact that "One" is actually inspired this story, it's more fitting than "Janie's Got a Gun". Sorry, Steven Tyler, but there's no running away from this pain for Johnny, because he ain't got no legs, like Lt. Dan (Run, Forrest, run, run away from the pain!), only, you know, he also doesn't have arms, or a face, and with it, the ability to see, hear, smell, taste, speak, or grow a moustache (Looking at John, I'd imagine that's a problem for Bonhams), although he does have decent brain function... which allows him to think about his situation. ...You know what, they probably should have just left him to die, because if there are fates worse than death, then, wow, this is most certainly proof of that, which isn't to say that it's all that likely. Yeah, the Joe Bonham protagonist opens the novel up with a prologue which says that there is a million-to-one chance of something like this happening, but I'm thinking that Metallica didn't get the title "One" from that statistic, as much as they were saying that only "one" poor chump is suffering this fate, because I don't know if a human being can get this unlucky. Well, this is military fiction dealing with a World War I tragedy, and looking at the weaponry we have now that you sure hope would kill you, I think that this film fulfilled its job of making me want to join the military even less, which is good, because as much as this film thrusts that message at you, you better comply. Yeah, people, if you don't remember that this film was made in 1971, at the height of the hippie's anti-war movement, just look at the poster that flashes a big ol' piece sign at you, and while that isn't to say that this film isn't decent, it is to say that it has its share of subtlety issues, among other problems (Well, at least the film can't possibly have more problems than Joe Bonham).

Something of a meditative piece in certain places, the film has a tendency to take on a certain quietness and subtlety to its storytelling, and such a move would be more effective if it was more realized, yet as things stand, Dalton Trumbo's direction is neither thoughtful enough nor slick-paced enough for you to take the film's style for what it is, resulting in atmospheric dry spells, some of which are truly dulling. Trumbo dulls things down more than he probably should, and such an issue would perhaps not be so recurring if Trumbo had more material to meditate upon, rather than a script that he himself wrote whose excessiveness not only bloats meandering filler to the point of repetition, but also bloat material to the point of convoluting the narrative by juggling too many plot elements to feel consistent, or even focused in its progression. Dealing with the Joe Bonham characters' learning to make due with his new and horrible life, as well as with Bonham's backstory, surrealistic dreams and, just for good measure, confrontation with Christ himself (Donald Sutherland makes for quite the groovy, oddly '60s-looking Jesus in a WWI timeline), the film takes on a lot of interesting ideas, but in execution, Trumbo fails to keep controlled enough in his cinematic translation of his own novel's worthy story for the narrative to not feel overblown, repetitious and maybe even aimless. Perhaps all of the excessive layering would be more organic if the story concept was grander enough to be especially worthy of such ambition, for although this drama is certainly meaty, with plenty of layers that surprisingly feel pretty fitting (Seriously though, what was up with the Jesus segments?), the more the film struggles to flesh out its narrative, the harder it is to deny the minimalism of this subject matter, although that might simply be because much of the meat goes undercut by subtlety issues. Subject matter this devastating has be treated very delicately, because if dramatic storytelling gets carried away, the final product would be too much of an emotional challenge for you to feel the thematic weight, yet the route that Trumbo goes as storytelling is arguably just as questionable, as Trumbo actually stresses the thematic depth a touch too much, with anything from heavy-handed symbolic set pieces to sentimentality, both of which have moments in which they're not simply distancing, but cheesy as reflects of overambition. Really, at the end of the day, "ambition" is the key term which best describes this passionate meditation upon worthy subject matter, and such an overwhelming desire to compel results in plenty of realized inspiration, but once realization slips, the ambition leaves storytelling to buckle under the weight of its overly meditative atmospherics, overblown storytelling and subtlety issues, and plummet shy of its potential. The film is kind of underwhelming, and when you see just where the story could have gone, there's no denying that potential is lost, nonetheless salvaged enough for the final product to endear, sometimes grip, while at least keeping consistent in aesthetic value.

In order to reinforce its themes of distinguishing harsh reality and dreamy reality, the film really relies on Jules Brenner's cinematography, which is a touch dated, but still truly outstanding in its dynamicity, alone, gracing the hospital segments with a black-and-white color palette and emphasis on shadow that handsomely captures the subject matter's bleakness, the background segments with tastefully controlled color, and the dream segments with a heavy glow to lighting that is truly beautiful in its richness. Of course, most every segment in the stylish film is handsome, because if nothing else stands out in this drama, it's the intricately diverse and aesthetically striking visual style, so much so that the drama is almost worthy seeing just for you to observe just how playful it is with its style, or rather, how playful Dalton Trumbo is with the film's visual style. As director, Trumbo actually works pretty well with plenty of stylistic attributes, playing with the diversity of Brenner's cinematography in order to reinforce thematic and tonal dynamicity, and even with Millie Moore's snappy editing (Yeah, there are quite a few jump-cuts, but whatever) in order to add some entertaining flare, which isn't to say that Trumbo's thoughtful atmospherics are frequently too thoughtful for their own good, because even all of this heavily thoughtful storytelling wears down momentum to a dull point more often than it should, when it's realized, it immerses and moves. What further compels in this character drama is Trumbo's work with his performers, every one of which endears with his or her own distinctive portrayal, but none more so than then-newcomer Timothy Bottoms, whose grounded charisma sells the innocence of the lead Joe Bonham character, whose heavy emotional layers sells both overwhelming fear and great hope, both of which are instrumental in the selling of this film. Bottoms' solid lead performance is, of course, highly prominent in this intimate study on a man's struggles, both relatable and horrible beyond one's greatest fears, and it, combined with sharp style, inspired direction and even some clever writing, sees some powerful highlights in storytelling which is generally stands to do greater justice to a story that is itself still of limited weight. At its core, this story is kind of minimalist, and that applies sensitivity to engagement value that is, of course, undercut by the missteps within Trumbo's interpretation of his own narrative concept, yet at the same time, the basic idea behind this drama, on its own, holds too much intrigue to easily shake, being not only an interesting character study with plenty of nifty, almost surrealistic dreamy aspects, but a worthy portrait on the horrors of warfare that, despite its subtlety issues, carries plenty of water, thematically and dramatically speaking. Were there more consistency to inspiration, rather than sheer ambition, to the telling of this worthy tale, the final product would have rewarded pretty thoroughly, through all of the minimalist aspects, yet as things stand, the conceptual value and interpretation's heart prove to be enough to brink the final product at least to the brink of rewarding.

In closing, bland atmospheric spells steady a sense of momentum which is shaken enough by questionable structural pacing and a rather convolutedly overblown narrative that, alongside subtlety issues, reflect too much of an ambition to flesh out a story too conceptually minimalist for the final product to truly stand out, but through excellent and richly dynamic cinematography, thoughtful direction and strong acting - particularly by Timothy Bottoms - behind a dramatically and thematically solid story concept, "Johnny Got His Gun" stands as a highly flawed, but borderline rewardingly endearing study on the dark depths of struggle to which a human can sink.

2.75/5 - Decent
September 28, 2013
This is one of those movies that's hard to watch, but impossible to forget. Not a movie I could see very often.
March 18, 2013
This strange, brilliant and contemplative film is excellent. A psychological thriller it poses more questions than it answers. Mentally disturbing and provocative. Worth watching.
April 29, 2013
A unique vision, directed by Trumbo, writer of the same 1930's novel on which it is based, and a former blacklisted screenwriter because he had refused to testify before the HUAC in the late forties. This film is an enigmatic voyage through the dreams, recollections, memories and conversations with Jesus of a soldiers wounded in battle and left without arms, legs, ears, mouth, simply remaining conscious and unable to distinguish real life with imagination. Haunting anti war work, somewhat demanding, but nevertheless gripping, troubling and deeply engaging
February 3, 2013

No, seriously, I finished the film some hours ago and still feel sick when I look back to the experience.
It's devastating, and thoroughly unenjoyable to see a young man without any limbs, eyes, teeth or ears (thankfully, you don't actually get to see him, but only under bandages and sheets) suffer. He can't interact with anyone around him and can merely sense what's going on around him, and retreats into a world of dreams and memories (although it's hard for him to distinguish if he's awake or sleeping).

He recalls his last days with his sweetheart back at home, his childhood and his war memories and discusses faith with some kind of Jesus Christ incarnation.

Johnny Got His Gun combines the depressive morality of All Quiet on the Western Front with the devastating personal drama of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. If you're able to suffer through this almost unbearable movie you'll be rewarded with a new cinematic shock experience you won't find in the near future.
But that's exactly my main point of criticism as well. I have the feeling, that the film is too harsh and too brutal at moments. I guess only few can watch this film sincerely without being distracted from disgust, thus the film takes away some of its impact by itself.

Anyways, this is one of the most cruel and most effective anti-war films I've ever seen (although it hardly features any fight scenes) and as long as you don't have a weak stomach, I can only recommend you watching it.
January 23, 2013
If I ever get the verge to watch this semi-boring flick again I will just stick with the Metallica video.
The Phantom Creep
October 5, 2012
Johnny Got His Gun is a very dark, depressing, and relevant film. Though some of the performances are slightly awkward.
September 29, 2012
Really, really bad, on every level but mainly the acting.
September 18, 2012
this is one of three movies bottoms made in 1971-not bad 4 a newomer
September 3, 2012
Ultimate Human War Story--Shell Shocking!!
April 29, 2012
This film has disturbing content at times, deliberately so. Unfortunately, it does ramble in places, and there are parts where despite the darkness, it tips into corny rather than tragic.
April 8, 2012
This is the movie that Metallica used heavily in their video clip for "One". Unfortunately because of the video clip I'd seen all of this before...
March 23, 2012
The story is good, really good...the acting is shit, really shit. It starts out really horrible, with lousy acting and bad editing but slowly progresses and you get sucked into the stor, but boy is it bad acting. But the story is really good and it keeps the movie going and keeps your interest, and when it's all those bad parts, you can just take a moment and think about being blind, deaf, paralyzed and unable to communicate. I'm sure it was a good book, and the author should stick to books, because movies, he can - not.
March 19, 2012
If I ever get the verge to watch this semi-boring flick again I will just stick with the Metallica video
January 27, 2012
Truly harrowing and deeply disturbing. Cuts directly to the core.
February 20, 2012
Extremely moving, touching, eerie, bizarre, disconcerting and thought-provoking. This movie is on my top-10 of all-time. What great cinema is in my opinion.
June 26, 2011
It's dramatic without being cheesy, anti-war without being pamphletary, trippy without being junkie. Terrifying and touchy movie.
Eric B

Super Reviewer

March 8, 2011
It's a strange coincidence that I saw "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" just three days ago, because I didn't realize it and "Johnny Got His Gun" share the same experimental scenario: the subjective perceptions of a radically disabled man, daydreaming of happier times while struggling to communicate with his caretakers. The main difference is that "Johnny"'s Joe Bonham (Timothy Bottoms, dominating the screen in his debut film role) is presumed to be in a non-thinking, vegetative state, while "Diving Bell"'s Jean-Do was always known to be cognizant.

Maimed soldier Joe lies in a hospital bed, tucked away in a linen closet to save space. His face is half blown away and tactfully covered, and his arms and legs have been amputated. Blind and unable to speak, he has a limited interface with the world, and whatever trivial movements he makes are viewed as involuntary spasms. His identity is unknown to his doctors, and he is kept alive only as a medical curiosity.

He tries to make sense of the situation while recalling past events from his life, mostly focused on his gentle father (Jason Robards) and the girl he left behind. The hospital scenes are in black and white, while the flashbacks are in color. The color material also includes a few tepid fantasies involving Donald Sutherland as an unlikely, low-key Jesus Christ.

"Johnny Got His Gun" was the only film directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, best known today for being infamously blacklisted during the McCarthy era. "Johnny" was adapted from his own 1939 novel (other Trumbo credits include "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo," "Papillon," "Roman Holiday," "Spartacus" and "Exodus"). And yet surprisingly, his screenplay is more problematic than his direction: Joe's interior monologue is far too wordy and overelaborated to be realistic. There's always a sense of him adding extra detail for the audience's benefit. And Bottoms' performance is not so sharp, and this just doubles the text's clumsiness.

Watch for David Soul ("Starsky and Hutch") and Tony Geary ("General Hospital") in small roles, early in their careers.
November 1, 2010
Darkness imprisoning me absolute horror ..all that I see
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