As you may or may not know, I’m one of the biggest Metallica fans on the face of this planet, so imagine my excitement when I found out that the lyrics of their smash hit “One” were inspired by this movie. I thought to myself “If the band liked the movie so much they made a song about it, then this has to be something special.” Indeed it was special. The movie is based on the novel with the same name, and it was directed by the author of the novel, Dalton Trumbo.
The story is that of a soldier named Joe Bonham (Timothy Bottoms) who was hit by an artillery shell on the last day of WWI (what an unlucky bastard). This results in him losing both of his arms and legs. On top of that, he loses both his eyes, his nose, and his mouth. The only functioning thing in his body is his mind, and he basically becomes a prisoner of his own body. During this time, he keeps shifting between dreams/memories and reality. He also develops a relationship with a nurse at the hospital and finds a unique way to communicate with the outside world.
Johnny Got his Gun is a hidden gem. I haven’t met anyone who actually saw the movie and it’s not exactly the first movie people think of when talking about war movies. It’s an anti-war movie that I think delivered its message very clearly. Although not very graphic or violent, the mere thought of the situation that Joe is in just makes you feel pretty sad for any soldier that goes to war. It also makes you appreciate with what you are blessed with because honestly, what happened to Joe can happen to any soldier at war.
The movie’s technique of distinguishing between fantasy and reality is something that I appreciated a lot. They used color for the “fantasy” world and black and white for reality, which I think was very symbolic to use because the black and white reflects the atmosphere that Joe was living in, dull and lifeless. The film also has a very thick and dry feeling injected into it, kind of like in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), which I think complemented the movie really well.
The mask that Joe was wearing is definitely going to haunt me for the rest of my days, although it’s not scary. However, for me this mask represented the state that Joe was in; the state of being trapped in himself. You really have to feel sympathy for this guy, I mean it’s not easy to wish for your own death, so you know the amount of suffering that he went through. The army won’t mercy kill him nor will they accept his proposal of displaying him to the public in a freakshow.
Dalton Trumbo definitely excelled in this movie; the fact that he wrote the novel and directed the movie is amazing because it’s the closest possible visual demonstration of what Trumbo imagined when he was writing the novel. The script was well written, the acting was fantastic, and the message was clear.
This movie is in my list of the best DVDs I watched in 2013. Johnny Got His Gun is a powerful and memorable movie that’s you should not miss.
Take a Drink: whenever Joe talks to Jesus
Take a Drink: whenever you hear the sound of an artillery shell
Take a Drink: if you had the urge to listen to Metallica’s “One” after watching the movie
Do a Shot: for every memory/dream
Do a Shot: every time anyone says “help”