Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Homoeroticism and a Hint of Dad's Army a New Take on Joseph Heller's Classic

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Homoeroticism and a Hint of Dad's Army a New Take on Joseph Heller's Classic

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sexton The Viewer

Catch-22: Episode One 9pm, Channel 4 JOSEPH HELLER flew 60 combat missions in a B-25 Mitchell in Italy in the last years of the war. He was in his early twenties. He didn't start writing Catch-22, his first and best novel, until 1953, and it wasn't published until 1961.

Catch-22 is a challenging book, launching itself in the middle of things, circular and repetitious, chopping up the time scheme, an approach emulating the trap that its hero, Yossarian, finds himself in: always hoping to fly enough missions to complete his tour, only to discover each time that the bar has been raised; hoping he might be grounded as medically insane, only to learn that not wanting to fly any more proves he's sane.

The novel became enormously popular in the Sixties, co-opted as an anti-war protest. In 1970 it was made into a film, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Alan Arkin, simplified from the novel but still pretty frenetic. What many readers had not realised was quite how literal an account of Heller's own wartime experiences the book really was. Now here is a new adaptation, executive-produced, part directed by and co-starring George Clooney. It's a remarkably good-looking, high-quality piece of work all round and it returns the story to its historical context.

Clooney plays parade-ground disciplinarian Lieutenant Scheisskopf, who first makes Yossarian's life such hell, and then returns later as a general, to persecute him again with terrific vim.

Christopher Abbott (Charlie from Girls) is Yossarian, and he's not only peachily handsome and fit, he has a face that registers indignation, pain, shock and grief with remarkable interiority, putting his subjectivity where it needs to be, at the heart of the story. As Colonel Cathcart, the bullying base commander who keeps frustrating Yossarian's attempts to end his tour of duty, Kyle Chandler brings electrifying energy to this appalling character. …

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