Johnny Got His Gun [DVD] 
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Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, this anti-war film focuses on a young American soldier (Timothy Bottoms) who has been hit by a shell on the last day of the First World War. He is without limbs, eyes, ears, mouth or nose, and at the beginning of the film is in a coma. The doctors believe, and hope, he will not regain consciousness; in order to keep the 'good order' of the military, an Army general has instructed the hospital not to allow the boy to be seen or to notify his family, but has also insisted that the medical staff are not allowed to perform euthanasia. A nurse realises the young soldier is awake while changing his dressings. As he remains conscious, he tries to communicate to his doctors his wish to be put on show as a true example of the horrors of war.
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The story follows a young American soldier called Joe Bonham who enlists in the army to fight during the First World War. While attempting to save a friend during a skirmish, he is struck by an artillery shell. Waking up in a hospital he is dazed and confused. It slowly dawns on him that he has lost his arms and legs, and his face has been torn off, leaving him unable to see, hear, speak or smell. Trapped in his body he is unable to tell his doctors that he is still conscious, as they believe he's brain dead. They decide to keep him alive as a top secret experiment.
Joe cannot escape, not from his situation or from his mind. His only contact with the outside world is through feeling the reverberations of the footsteps on the wooden floor beside his bed. He begins to slip further and further into his own thoughts. It is through these thoughts that we see him as as he was before his injuries. We see him with the girlfriend he left behind, and the childhood conversations with his father. Tragically the only solace Joe finds is in these memories. Yet he also suffers from surreal nightmares, including haunting visions of Jesus Christ. He begins to lose track of time and reality.
A new nurse on the ward begins to sympathise with him. She believes that Joe is still conscious and she attempts to speak to him by writing letters out on his chest. Joe can only reply by shaking his body, which does not convince the army command. Eventually Joe discovers a way in which he could contact the outside world and perhaps find a purpose for his miserable and terrible existence.
This is a brilliant although tragic and bleak film. I doubt that any other film I've seen has such a bleak and pessimistic outlook, and as such this film shouldn't be watched if you are a sensitive person. The only negative points I can see with the film is that it comes across as somewhat dated in some scenes, but this is forgivable and not overly distracting. An excellent and terrifying film that exposes the true horrors of war.
a watch, Part black & white, and parts that are in his memory of his past are done in colour. 1hr 40mins.
While the movie fluctuates between the present and Joe's memories, sufficiently distinguished by black and white scenes and colour scenes respectively, the unbearably heavy atmosphere never changes. Every minute of the movie is drenched in despair and it leaves you with a macabre feeling that is quite unshakable. Watching the movie is also an understandably claustrophobic experience, as we witness Joe realising for the first time and having to come to terms with the fact that he has no arms, no legs, and no face and that he is trapped inside his mind for the rest of his 'life.' It is impossible to even imagine being in such a horrific position but it still leaves you with the same feeling of suffocating imprisonment.
This movie adaptation is very similar to the book though it does not follow it religiously, particularly towards the end, but the message remains clear and the story is just as horrifying. The scenes featuring Joe's hallucinations of Christ are especially harrowing and the ending of the movie admirably juxtaposes the pity and humanity of some people and the selfish and inhumane actions of others.
It is definitely an intense portrait of the horrific nature of war, just the thought of Joe's condition might be enough to shock anyone into a pacifism. One of the things that makes this more devastating is that it is set in a time of conscription and the young man has no choice in his own fate as the government claims him as an expendable, nameless puppet. It is saddening in its depiction of what could and does happen in battle and it reinforces the fact that these soldiers have lives, families, partners and hopes for the future that are obliterated in senseless acts of war that leave them dead or even worse, limbless, faceless and speechless, at such early stages of their lives.
It is horrifying, gripping, unforgettable and real!
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