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To End All Wars
on 29 July 2008
Johnny Got his Gun is a film based on Dalton Trumbo's classic novel. Trumbo is most famous today as being blacklisted during the 1950's and also for his script work on Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus. He also wrote the screenplay for this film and lent some of his directing skills towards it.
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.