USA Release date: 24th June 1970
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 21st January 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is a film I saw many years ago… I didn’t really understand it then and so I thought I’d give it another look (having matured a bit in the meantime). I must say it’s very weird, anarchic at times and has a lot to say politically… it’s also quite compelling. Based on Joseph Heller’s famous novel which, I have to confess, I’ve never read so you’ll be getting my opinion of the film as a stand-alone piece. But enough of my prattling; let’s have a crack at a synopsis before I give you my thoughts.
Whilst flying missions in Italy during World War II, Capt. John Yossarian decides he wants out and tries to get himself certified insane… But there’s a catch… Catch-22 to be precise. I won’t tell you exactly how it works here; but needless to say, it’s a pretty cunning way of keeping the boys flying. We also meet all of his crew and the locals they associate with when not on duty. There are also those who are out for themselves; Col. Cathcart, Maj. Danby and 1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder to name but a few. All this is interspersed with flashbacks to Yossarian’s efforts to help a young airman who is injured on a mission. I really don’t want to say too much, it’s one of those you have to see for yourself to get a grasp of. Also, the Spoiler Police will be selling off all my stuff.
This is an interesting film that has a lot to say about many things; not least war and capitalism. I won’t go into the political questions it raises, but needless to say the point is put across quite forcibly. Decent performances all round, particularly from Alan Arkin as Capt. John Yossarian; he did a first rate job here! Honourable mentions go to; Martin Balsam as Col. Cathcart, Richard Benjamin as Maj. Danby, Art Garfunkel as Capt. Nately, Jack Gilford as Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka, Buck Henry as Lt. Col. Korn, Bob Newhart as Maj. Major Major, Anthony Perkins as Chaplain Capt. A.T. Tappman, Paula Prentiss as Nurse Duckett, Martin Sheen as 1st Lt. Dobbs and Jon Voight as 1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder. Finally a special mention for Orson Welles who played a brilliant cameo as Brig. Gen. Dreedle.
Although I found this film entertaining, I did find it did drag on a bit towards the end. About 20 minutes shorter and it would have been ideal (for me). It’s all very well shot, but I’m afraid it suffers from having the feel of some ‘Frat-house’ comedy which didn’t really endear it to me too much. That aside, I did find parts of it were quite compelling although I did struggle to have much empathy with any of the characters… even the lead. For its day though I thought it was quite groundbreaking and quite an eye-opener (in more ways than one). At the end of the day an interesting adaptation… I’ll have to read the book sometime.
My score: 6.9/10.
IMDb Score: 7.1/10 (based on 10,995 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 87/100 (based on 23 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 62/100 (based on 9,365 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
If you’re crazy enough… You can find me on Facebook at:
Yossarian: Let me see if I've got this straight: in order to be grounded, I've got to be crazy and I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I'm not crazy any more and I have to keep flying.
Yossarian: Is Orr crazy?
Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka: Of course he is. He has to be crazy to keep flying after all his close calls he's had.
Yossarian: Why can't you ground him?
Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka: I can, but first he has to ask me.
Yossarian: That's all he's gotta do to be grounded?
Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka: That's all.
Yossarian: Then you can ground him?
Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka: No. Then I cannot ground him.
Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka: There's a CATCH?
Yossarian: A catch?
Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka: Sure. Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat isn't really crazy, so I can't ground him.
Yossarian: Ok, let me see if I've got this straight. In order to be grounded, I've got to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I'm not crazy anymore, and I have to keep flying.
Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka: You got it, that's Catch-22.
Yossarian: Whoo... That's some catch, that Catch-22.
Dr. 'Doc' Daneeka: It's the best there is.
Capt. Nately: Don't you have any principles?
Old man in whorehouse: Of course not!
Capt. Nately: No morality?
Old man in whorehouse: I'm a very moral man, and Italy is a very moral country. That's why we will certainly come out on top again if we succeed in being defeated.
Capt. Nately: You talk like a madman.
Old man in whorehouse: But I live like a sane one. I was a fascist when Mussolini was on top. Now that he has been deposed, I am anti-fascist. When the Germans were here, I was fanatically pro-German. Now I'm fanatically pro-American. You'll find no more loyal partisan in all of Italy than myself.
Capt. Nately: You're a shameful opportunist! What you don't understand is that it's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.
Old man in whorehouse: You have it backwards. It's better to live on your feet than to die on your knees. I know.
Capt. Nately: How do you know?
Old man in whorehouse: Because I am 107-years-old. How old are you?
Capt. Nately: I'll be 20 in January.
Old man in whorehouse: If you live.