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DVD Review: Catch-22

November 20, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Joseph Heller’s seminal 1961 novel Catch-22 is a classic satire about the futility of war and the cascading reactions from one man’s attempts to get out of battle. It was already adapted for the big screen in 1971, and now we have a small screen adaptation in the form of a six-part miniseries, which streamed on Hulu earlier this year and is arriving on DVD this week.

Executive produced by the Oscar-winning team of George Clooney and Grant Heslov, who also each directed two of the six episodes, Catch-22 has a lot of star power behind it, and for the most part it’s really good. Clooney also appears in a supporting role as the strict commander Scheisskopf, and he surrounds himself with an excellent ensemble of actors to bring the book’s unique cast of characters to the screen.

The series follows John Yossarian (Christopher Abbott), an American bombardier stationed in Italy during World War II, who fears for his life and is desperately looking for a way to get out of having to fly more missions, as Colonel Cathcart (Kyle Chandler) keeps randomly upping the mission count. Meanwhile, enterprising young soldier Milo Minderbinder (Daniel David Stewart) finds his own way to capitalize on the war by getting himself promoted to mess officer and starting a syndicate to import food between countries, enriching himself in the process.

The Germans have essentially already lost the war, but these members of the U.S. air squadron are ordered to carry on fighting anyways, adding to Yossarian’s frustration at continuously having to put his life on the line. The title of Catch-22 comes from an insanity clause stating that you can request a leave from service if you are mentally unwell, but because requesting a leave would be a sane thing to do, by requesting one you are therefore proving that you are not insane. The story is filled with these sorts of logical fallacies, which was one of the most famous aspects of Heller’s novel as well, and the miniseries provides a faithful adaptation of his controversial literary work.

The show is darkly funny for those of us who can appreciate this specific brand of ironic and often absurd pitch black humour. But it’s got a good deal of pathos underpinning it as well, showing war to be an endless cycle that ensnares many innocent people in its midst, and if you try to break the cycle, you end up inadvertently causing more damage. Abbott carries the series with a strong performance, doing an excellent job of portraying Yossarian’s character arc over the course of the six episodes, right through to his final act of protest which is both tragic and comical.

The production design is first rate, the cinematography by Martin Ruhe is consistently solid, and the series features a fine musical score by Harry Gregson-Williams and Rupert Gregson-Williams, which is accompanied by a nice selection of old songs on the soundtrack. Maintaining interesting throughout all six episodes, Catch-22 is an engaging and entertaining miniseries that works as a solid and well-acted adaptation of the classic novel.

The 2-disc DVD set also includes the three featurettes The Cogs of War Part One: That’s Some Catch, That Catch 22, The Cogs of War Part Two: That’s Complex, That Military Industrial Complex! and The Cogs of War Part Three: Yossarian Lives!!!(?)!, as well as a selection of deleted scenes and outtakes on both of the two discs.

Catch-22 is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s approximately 267 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: November 19th, 2019

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