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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.
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on 12 September 2017
Good anti-war film, but I wished they could have shown the real wounds/scars of war, rather than just bandages, People do not remember bandages, but all the people who have seen the Elephant Man, can instantly his features, and the rest of the film.Getting back to the film, It is worth
a watch, Part black & white, and parts that are in his memory of his past are done in colour. 1hr 40mins.
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VINE VOICEon 3 September 2004
This is one of the most powerful movies i have ever watched. I think that the very depressing nature of this film might make it barely more than a one time watch for many, but this is not a bad thing as the impact it will have when you see it for the first time is one that you will likely never forget.

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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Dalton Trumbo is probably best remembered as the film writer who refused to give evidence in the McCarthy era, and was subsequently jailed and blacklisted. It is perhaps unsurprising that this Hollywood rebel wrote the screenplays for "Spartacus", the slave who threatened the old Roman order, and the contemporary western "Lonely are the Brave", about the cowboy who defied the modern world and its established rules. Less well known was the fact that he directed the film of his own famous anti war book "Johnny Got His Gun", for which he also of course wrote the screenplay. Luis Bunuel was pencilled in to direct the film in the early sixties before the project was shelved, which left the way open for Trumbo to direct for the first and last time. On this evidence it is a pity he did not make more films. But it should be warned that this is a very powerful film indeed, that makes uncomfortable viewing at times, and is one that may not appeal to everyone with its overt intellectual approach.

The film concerns a young soldier Joe Bonham, played by Timothy Bottoms, who enlists with the American army to fight in World War One. In the fighting he is struck by a shell that blows off all his limbs, his eyes, nose and ears. But he miraculously survives although he is thought by surgeons to be nothing less than a vegetable. But the surgeons are badly wrong. Johnny's brain functions perfectly well, and the awful realisation of what he has become slowly dawns on him. His past life is revealed in flashbacks, with Jason Robards memorably appearing as his fishing mad father. Joe also has some Bunuel like dreams, that include seeing Jesus, played by a hippy like Donald Sutherland, riding the night train that carries dead soldiers away.

The film made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971 where it was a prize winner. Shout Factory re-released the DVD in the USA in 2009 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the books publication in 1939. Trumbo based his book on an article he read about the Prince of Wales visit to a Canadian's veterans hospital to see a soldier who had lost all his senses and all his limbs. The film constantly and most discomfitingly puts you in the place of Joe, and this horrifying thought gives much cause for reflection. Joes increasingly frantic efforts to bang his head in morse code, in a desperate attempt to communicate, is a tremendously powerful and enduring image. Those religiously minded people like myself, may find the scene where Jesus informs Joe that he needs a miracle to cure his problems hard to take. As a potent indictment against war, this is perhaps one of the greatest examples, that skilfully manages to avoid the battlefield, much in the same way that the more recent film "Regeneration" did. The Shout Factory re-release contains an interesting 60 minute documentary about Dalton Trumbo that is worth catching, plus a recent interview with Timothy Bottoms. The saddest thing about watching this film now, is the realisation that there are still young men suffering similar horrifying injuries today. One begins to appreciate that living with, and overcoming such handicaps requires true courage and heroism.
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on 26 May 2004
The Horror of War: This film has haunted me ever since I saw it on television a number of years ago. Like the film “All Quiet on The Western Front” it is a timeless anti-war movie quickly dispelling the “Action and Glamour” myth of war. As a 3rd generation volunteer of Combat Medics (myself a casualty of Desert Storm (Father serving in the Korean War)) I can bear witness to my Grandfathers event of not retuning home from France to the Beat of the Drum and the Flag waving at the end of the Great War as he had to remain in Service an extra year as a Medic looking after the backlog of casualties. After the Glories of Battle the filth of The Battle is dumped into the Medics, Doctors and Nurses lap; “The Living Dead – The Unwanted”. Anyone who watches the film will remember it again in November when the Poppy Tubs come out. This film represents the attitude of the “system” to this very day. A must watch........
Also a compelling plea for Governments to find a peaceful settlement / solution before condemning the youth of their own Nation... R.A.B.
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on 9 May 2013
Like many people, I only discovered this via a Metallica video (and am not even a fan!). The film really is pretty depressing stuff and if you are in a bad frame of mind, I don't suggest watching it!
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on 4 July 2014
Terrifying and compelling. Some of the scenes have fed my nightmares since I first saw it, somehow, somewhere, as a boy four decades ago
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on 28 February 2013
Great movie with a good message I mainly bought this movie because of the Metallica video clip and it did not disappoint. Worth a watch.
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on 24 May 2013
Great anti war movie. Relates very well with the book of the sam title.
Same category as "All quiet at the western front".
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on 20 January 2013
this is a film that i watched years ago got is a present for somebody and he really enjoyed it this film is one to see
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