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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Catch-22 (1970)



Reviews and Comments

"Help him! Help him!"

The first thing to notice in this movie -- and this isn't something that should generally draw one's attention -- is the sound effects editing. This movie is rich with sound and sound effects and background noise, and when there is no sound, it's rich by its absence.

This movie is rich with other things, too. It's richly weird, for example. This anti-war black comedy is about as surreal and disjoint as it could get and still make some semblance of sense. And I must admit that while I pretty much understood what Catch-22 has to say, the purpose of a few bizarre scenes escape me.

Alan Arkin plays Yossarian, lead role. He's a burnt out soldier, wearied of the politics of war and the heartless injustices created by those around him using the war for personal profit. He's not a champion of truth and righteousness for all, mind you, he's just a guy that wants to get out. But he can't. The only way the doctor could ground him is if he was crazy and asked to be grounded. But if he asked to be grounded...he couldn't possibly be all that crazy.

I'm not generally fond of anti-war propaganda. War is a bad thing. But sometimes it may also be necessary. Anti-war propaganda tells us the first point, which everyone already knows, and ignores the second, which is really what needs saying. So I don't usually appreciate anti-war propaganda films such as Catch-22, and, changing the subject, I think it's a little too surreal for its own good. However, its visual and aural style is so striking and powerful, it's hard not to appreciate the artistry that went into its construction. On top of that, it's alternately horrifying and wickedly funny. Balancing these points together, I give Catch-22 a modest recommendation but caution that it's not for everybody.