Published on July 1st, 2009 | by Chris0
Johnny Got His Gun (1971)
Johnny Got His Gun is a mostly little-known movie, which would be even more obscure if it weren't for Metallica's "One" music video back in the day. But forget about that for a minute.
What you get here is a surreal trip into one man's nightmare after suffering extensive injuries on the battlefields of World War I... and a biting anti-war film to boot.
"Johnny" is really Joe Bonham, who does his civic duty and goes off to Europe to fight in the trenches. He literally blown to bits by an inbound shell, losing his arms, legs, and face, losing all senses except touch. He survives, and becomes a medical curiosity to the upper brass. He's kept alive, and in his sensory-deprived state, we get to go on some rather odd journeys down memory lane, among others.
Really I don't want to spoil too much of it, because I think you really have to experience it for yourself. Between his remembrances of his father, who apparently loved his fishing pole more than Joe, to his matrix-like train station conversations with Jesus (a trippy Donald Sutherland), and the absolute terror portrayed as he tries to figure out what is happening to him.... It's just brilliant. Yeah I know I said something before about it being not-so-much, but on another viewing I've changed my mind.
The only problem I think exists with the amount of anti-war "preaching" that goes on. Some of it is just so obvious and "in your face" that it comes across wrong. Take for example the bit with he and his father talking about Democracy.... While it might be true to a point, its almost pretentious.
But... I guess that's to be expected given the time it was made, right at the height of the Vietnam war and all. (Especially if you take a gander at the poster art...) I think it probably serves as a metaphor for that war more than anything. Viewed in that respect it also adds another layer of depth to it.
Johnny Got His Gun is a mind-trip, that's for sure, but I have to recommend it.
Summary: What you get here is a surreal trip into one man's nightmare after suffering extensive injuries on the battlefields of World War I... and a biting anti-war film to boot.