Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Johnny Got His Gun

Ben McKenzie gives a tour-de-force performance in this one-man show, a challenging adapation of an anti-war classic.

Oct 24, 2008

-By David Noh


For movie details, please click here.

In 2007, filmmaker Rowan Joseph, about to direct a national tour of a play adaptation by Bradley Rand Smith of Dalton Trumbo’s novel Johnny Got His Gun, went to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts to watch a beloved videotape of the original 1982 off-Broadway production with Jeff Daniels. Joseph had seen and loved the play, which had run for 27 performances, and initially viewing the video in the late ’80s, he became even more besotted, despite the fact the first ten minutes had no audio. What Joseph discovered to his horror upon re-watching the video in 2007 was that the first 20 minutes had been destroyed when it was transferred from VHS to digital. Devastated by the idea that no full, permanent record of the play existed, Joseph decided to postpone the play and make a video of a new production of it instead. This is the fascinating genesis of what is undoubtedly a labor of love for all concerned.

Trumbo’s anti-war novel, which was previously filmed in 1971 with adaptation and direction by the once-blacklisted Trumbo himself, all takes place in the mind of Joe Bonham. He has been injured by an artillery shell on the last day of World War I, which leaves him a quadruple amputee who has also lost his eyes, ears, nose and mouth. His brain, however, is intact, and he devises a Morse code system of tapping his head to communicate his desire to be put on display as an illustration of the horrors of war.

The play is a one-man show, staged with the utmost minimalism and, as such, an audience challenge. Luckily, Joseph has cast it perfectly, with Ben McKenzie (formerly of “The O.C.”) as Joe. McKenzie has the perfect boy-next-door looks as well as the physical intensity and ardent naturalism to hold your interest. It’s a tour-de-force performance, and Joseph’s camerawork is fluid and sensitive, commendably staying well out of the way of his actor, as he emotes a sadly timeless tale particularly germane to this election year.


Film Review: Johnny Got His Gun

Ben McKenzie gives a tour-de-force performance in this one-man show, a challenging adapation of an anti-war classic.

Oct 24, 2008

-By David Noh


For movie details, please click here.

In 2007, filmmaker Rowan Joseph, about to direct a national tour of a play adaptation by Bradley Rand Smith of Dalton Trumbo’s novel Johnny Got His Gun, went to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts to watch a beloved videotape of the original 1982 off-Broadway production with Jeff Daniels. Joseph had seen and loved the play, which had run for 27 performances, and initially viewing the video in the late ’80s, he became even more besotted, despite the fact the first ten minutes had no audio. What Joseph discovered to his horror upon re-watching the video in 2007 was that the first 20 minutes had been destroyed when it was transferred from VHS to digital. Devastated by the idea that no full, permanent record of the play existed, Joseph decided to postpone the play and make a video of a new production of it instead. This is the fascinating genesis of what is undoubtedly a labor of love for all concerned.

Trumbo’s anti-war novel, which was previously filmed in 1971 with adaptation and direction by the once-blacklisted Trumbo himself, all takes place in the mind of Joe Bonham. He has been injured by an artillery shell on the last day of World War I, which leaves him a quadruple amputee who has also lost his eyes, ears, nose and mouth. His brain, however, is intact, and he devises a Morse code system of tapping his head to communicate his desire to be put on display as an illustration of the horrors of war.

The play is a one-man show, staged with the utmost minimalism and, as such, an audience challenge. Luckily, Joseph has cast it perfectly, with Ben McKenzie (formerly of “The O.C.”) as Joe. McKenzie has the perfect boy-next-door looks as well as the physical intensity and ardent naturalism to hold your interest. It’s a tour-de-force performance, and Joseph’s camerawork is fluid and sensitive, commendably staying well out of the way of his actor, as he emotes a sadly timeless tale particularly germane to this election year.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

The Congress
Film Review: The Congress

Part live-action, part cornea-searing animation, this cinematic overload is ambitious but ultimately fatigues as it plays with the intriguing notion of a fading Hollywood star selling rights so her cyberspace avatar can rise to superstardom and stay forever young in virtual reality. Flashy animation and cynical stabs at celebrity culture and movie-studio finagling keep things lively for a while. More »

The Last of Robin Hood
Film Review: The Last of Robin Hood

Serviceable vehicle for a salacious story. More »

Last Weekend
Film Review: Last Weekend

A sort of modern Chekhovian study of family tensions over a country weekend, this indie drama is very pretty to look at and at times disarming, but needed more punch. More »

The Notebook
Film Review: The Notebook

An aloof adaptation of Agota Kristof's best-seller that's technically impressive but precludes audience identification. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here