Sunday, February 12, 2006

Catch-22 (1970)

Captain Yossarian doesn’t want to fly any more WW2 bombing missions. The more he flies, the greater the likelihood he'll get killed. So flying more missions, well, that’s just crazy. But the base doc won’t ground him -- not wanting to fly dangerous missions is a sure sign of sanity -- which means he can’t be grounded and is therefore suited to fly more missions. Which is crazy. That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

Mike Nichols’ take on Joseph Heller’s midnight-black comedy is an underappreciated war-movie spectacle; Band of Brothers on acid. Transferring as many of the novel’s zany characters and madcap nuances as would fit into a single film, Nichols effectively distills the comedy and the greater allegorical message, especially as a third-act turn delves into more serious, bloody territory. The brilliant menagerie of players reads like dream-team casting for the period: Alan Arkin, Bob Newhart, Martin Sheen, Anthony Perkins, Jon Voight, Martin Balsam, Buck Henry, &c. The scene where Orson Welles shows up as General Dreedle (with a sexpot WAC in tow) to unnerve Richard Benjamin’s Major Danby is a masterpiece of comedic restraint. Yep, best catch there is.

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