Pros: Caustic satire on army life; creepy war episodes; good acting Cons: Differences from the original work; some computer graphics flaws; too much sepia Catch-22
Genre: war drama, satire
Creator Luke Davis, David Michaud
Cast: Christopher Abbott (John Yossarian), Kyle Chandler (Colonel Cathcart), Hugh Laurie (Major de Coverley), George Clooney (Lieutenant Scheiskopf), Daniel David Stewart (Milo Minderbinder), Austin Stowell (Nately), Lewis Pullman (Major Major Major Major), Grant Heslov (Dr. Danika), etc.
Hulu Channel, Sky Italia
Year of release 2019
If you have not yet read Joseph Heller’s most famous novel, then it is better to postpone reading it until later. The Catch-22 series, due to the specifics of the format, is somewhat different from the original work and it will be better if you leave the search for these differences for later. Moreover, they do not spoil the series itself, they only place emphasis slightly differently. I read the novel more than 20 years ago, so now I only remember the general outline and, perhaps, this is only for the better.
Catch-22 takes place at the end of World War II. The story centers on the service of Lieutenant and later Captain John Yossarian, a bombardier and crew member of a B-25 bomber. Yossarian and his unit are stationed on a small Mediterranean island and provide air support to Allied forces in Italy. John is a good bomber, but he really wants to survive and is looking forward to his 25th mission, which will allow him to finish his service and return home. But as soon as the counter of completed missions approaches the cherished figure, the base commander, Colonel Cathcart, increases the number of sorties to 30. Then to 35, 40, etc. Yossarian looks for the craziest ways to leave the base, but fails over and over again and continues to fly.
First of all, Catch-22 is a postmodern work; many rather banal army situations are brought here to the point of absurdity, to the absolute. Theft and money-grubbing in the army here reaches some transcendental heights, turning an ordinary canteen manager into the head of an international trading consortium, which, trading at a loss, brings fabulous profits to all participants. Yes, I can perfectly imagine what kind of comment will follow this passage, but no, this is not about our case. The bureaucracy in Catch-22 is a force greater than God himself. Due to bureaucratic conflicts, a sergeant can be instantly promoted to major and a medal given to someone who should be punished.
At the same time, despite the clearly satirical anti-war orientation, Catch-22 is one of the most powerful works about the war. Some episodes are downright scary to watch. For example, the same loss of a wingman who simply disappeared behind the clouds is perceived more acutely than a dozen scenes with flaming and falling planes. And Yossarian’s attempt to save Private Snowman is generally one of the most powerful death scenes in war films.
The authors of Catch-22 take viewers on an emotional swing. The insanely funny episode in the office of Major Major Major Major here may be followed by the ridiculous bloody death of baby Simpson. Behind another sparkling performance by Milo Minderbinder is the death of Nately, awaiting death with some otherworldly peace on his face. As in the novel, Yossarian loses his friends one by one. Some in the literal sense, some, like Captain Ardvark, in the spiritual.
However, one of the authors’ mistakes is connected with the same captain Ardvark. In Heller’s novel, the scene with Michaela is perhaps one of the most powerful and important; in the series, this episode is also quite heavy, but still blurred. If we talk about other differences, the authors shuffled the sequence of events and changed some characters. Although the updated version of the same Milo Minderbinder turned out to be even more interesting and brought an additional element of the grotesque to the series. But the fact that the role of the chaplain was lost among others, frankly, is a shame.
Along with the young actors playing John Yossarian’s co-workers, Catch-22 also stars some big stars. Some, like Hugh Laurie, got very small roles, others, like Kyle Chandler, George Clooney and Grant Heslov, got more important roles. Clooney and Heslov themselves acted in Catch-22 as directors, directing two episodes each, and producers. As for the young performers, in addition to Christopher Abbott, who really invested in the role of John Yossarian, it is worth noting Daniel David Stewart, who revived the image of Milo Minderbinder.
By and large, besides the obvious adaptation of the text to the script format, the new Catch-22 can only be blamed for an overabundance of sepia, with which the creators are trying to hide the flaws of sloppy computer graphics. Otherwise, this is an excellent war and anti-war series that everyone should watch.
Catch-22 is a complete story. It is unlikely that Hulu, especially after the service became the property of Disney, will decide to continue, as it did with The Handmaid’s Tale. However, in this case the literary basis at least exists. Thirty-five years after Catch-22, Joseph Heller wrote a sequel, The Shop Is Closing Up, in which the aging characters look back on wartime events.
Anti-war series that everyone should watch