A bombardier in World War II tries desperately to escape the insanity of the war. However, sometimes insanity is the only sane way to cope with a crazy situation. Catch-22 is a parody of a "military mentality", and of a bureaucratic society in general.Written by
Jeffrey Struyk <Catch22@ix.netcom.com>
Orson Welles tried to acquire the rights to the novel so that he could film it. He had to be content with playing the part of General Dreedle. See more »
During the mission to Ferrera, when Yossarian toggles his bombs early and causes the entire group to bomb the ocean, the top gun turret of Yossarian's B-25 is missing when the plane is seen in head-on process shots against a rear-screen projection of other planes in flight. See more »
A searing and visually pleasing adaptation, one of Mike Nichols' best films
In 'Catch-22' director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Buck Henry, along with a large ensemble that includes the likes of Alan Arkin, Art Garfunkel, Martin Sheen, and Orson Welles, takes on the challenge of adaptation Joseph Heller's renown novel. And through stunning visual work with crisp and deadpan dialogue, the 'Catch-22' is effortlessly able to capture the immense spirit of Heller's novel and at the same time stand alone as a master film.
'Catch-22' takes place on the Mediterranean Island of Pianosa and the film has a strange narrative time order, which mainly includes flashback. Yossarian (Alan Arkin), a bombardier during World War II walks out just after a meeting with the high command and is stabbed. While lying on the surgery table, he begins to remember the strange events of the war, including the catch that doesn't allow him to go home: catch-22. In order for a person to be grounded from flying the set number of missions, which is constantly being raised by the mean spirited Colonel Catchart (Martin Balsam), he must declare himself insane to Doctor Daneeka (Jack Gilford ). The catch is that by declaring himself insane and requesting to not fly anymore missions, he has proved himself sane! Through recalling major events, such as the painful death of the new gunner Snowden, his romantic entanglement with a prostitute in Rome, and other crazy wartime events, Yossarian slowly unravels the story. The world seems to be slowly disintegrating around him as a his friends either go crazy or are killed in combat, and at the same time mess hall officer Milo Minderbinder (Jon Voight) is constantly taking away plane equipment in order to make a profit. The difficult task of adapting such a complex plot from the novel was solved handled breathtaking skill. While some characters, major or minor, do not make the transition from Heller's novel to Henry's screenplay; the "spirit" of the novel is captured. The surreal feeling of wartime and the bizarre and comedic events that take place are stunningly well delivered.
The cast does a good job of taking their characters and elevating them. Yossarian is arguably one of the most enjoyable characters in literary history, and Arkin gives a very well rounded performance as a man extremely paranoid about the war, but for good reason. The supporting cast, including Sheen, Voight, Welles, and even Henry himself as Colonel Korn gives able to support to the events of the story, although the main events really encompass around Yossarian.
'Catch-22' was released in 1970, three years after Mike Nichols' popular film 'The Graduate' for which he nabbed a Best Director Academy Award. It also came four years after his adaptation of Edward Albee's play 'Who's Afraid of Virgnia Woolf?', Nichols' debut piece that showcased his ability to handle sharp dialogue and direct a poignant story and ensemble from another popular literary work. Nichols, fresh off the success of these two films along with a directing Oscar and another nomination, directs 'Catch-22' with a strongly appeasing visual style and a remarkable subtlety. Even during the more hectic scenes, such as a raid on the airbase, Nichols is able to continue his momentum throughout. The film, as mentioned many times in this review, looks absolutely stunning and Nichols' is also able to effectively command his large ensemble. Buck Henry, who collaborated in the writing of 'The Graduate' manages to not only capture the extremely significant and memorable dialogue of 'Catch-22' but at the same time capture the pure depth and at times, cynicism which author Heller portrayed.
In the end, 'Catch-22' proves a success in its storytelling and visual style. While the film overall fell in the shadow of the popularity of Robert Altman's 'M*A*S*H' which also took major Oscar nominations instead, the film nonetheless stands out amongst its time, proving itself an extremely tight and well done adaptation of a complex piece of literature.
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