Catch-22 (1970)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Catch-22</strong> (1970)

(In French, On Cable TV, September 2018) Coming in toward the end of the Vietnam quagmire, 1970 was a strange year for war movies. On the one hand, you have the blockbuster example of Patton, with its portrayal of a grander-than-life soldier’s soldier against the noble backdrop of World War II and sweeping tank battles. Then there is the satirical trio of Kelly’s Heroes, MASH and Catch-22, all of which took a jaundiced satirical look at war, taking potshots at the very ideals that earlier movies such as The Longest Day would have promoted a few years earlier. (Even Patton isn’t immune to the critical re-evaluation, as Patton himself is portrayed as exceptionally flawed and prisoner of his own nature.) Catch-22 betrays its literary origins through elaborate dialogue sequences often taking over the cinematic qualities of its sequences—most spectacularly during a sequence in which some inane dialogue takes place over the crash landing of a plane behind the characters. This being said, there’s an admirable commitment to historical recreations in Catch-22—the film put together a bomber air base just for shooting, and the results are some impressive sequences with real military hardware and none of that fluffy CGI stuff. An all-star cast is enough to keep things interesting—from Alan Arkin’s too-sane protagonist to Orson Welles turning up as a military commander. Much of the film has a compelling twisted logic to it, pointing out the limits of military thinking in exceptional situations. While the result could have been tighter, more focused and perhaps just a bit less talky, it still amounts to a compelling anti-war statement.

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