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

Citizenfour
Film Review: Citizenfour

Documentary account of how Edward Snowden leaked intelligence to the world press. More »

Glen Campbell I'll Be Me
Film Review: Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

Alzheimer's is given an unforgettably human face here, and that face belongs to a music legend. More »

White Bird in a Blizzard
Film Review: White Bird in a Blizzard

A clichéd indie about a girl’s coming-of-age amidst her mother’s disappearance that, despite a sturdy lead performance by Shailene Woodley, is undone by hackneyed, go-nowhere plotting. More »

Exists
Film Review: Exists

Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sanchez returns to the faux-found footage well and hauls out a bucketful of Bigfoot in this derivative but creepy shocker. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

John Wick
Film Review: John Wick

Retired hit man seeks revenge on Russian mob in an above-average action film. More »

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. 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