Johnny Got His Gun

Rated 2.0

After serving a year in prison for contempt of Congress and a decade on the Hollywood blacklist, prolific screenwriter Dalton Trumbo got his first chance to direct in 1971 with Johnny Got His Gun, an adaptation of his own award-winning book. That’s such a great back story, you can’t help but wish the movie was good. But aside from a few captivating moments, Trumbo’s story of a hopelessly mutilated American soldier kept mercilessly alive by military surgeons is old-fashioned, obvious and slow. The soggy performances—especially by Timothy Bottoms as the wounded World War I soldier drifting between memory, dream, and hallucination—make matters worse. Trumbo’s book was considered a pretty powerful antiwar polemic in 1939, but the film seems more inspired by dippy 1970s photo-album covers.