Critical Condition: Catch-22

Catch-22 | TVNZ OnDemand, from Saturday

☆☆☆  “Executive produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov — with each directing two episodes — the limited series was developed and written by Luke Davies (Lion) and David Michod (Animal Kingdom), who manage to find the difficult tonal balance of the book: a winning combination of satire, madcap bombast and, most important, deep existential angst that the main character, John Yossarian (Christopher Abbott), manifests in his ever-increasing fear of death as a U.S. bombardier flying missions in Italy during World War II.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

☆☆☆☆ Catch-22 translates Heller’s complex, multi-layered literature into sumptuous storytelling that’s as pointed and intellectual as it is easy to grasp … Bringing this work to TV was a risky move, but the finished product is exceedingly well done and, at a time when government gobbledygook has trumped all previous notions of unbelievability, perhaps more urgent than anyone could have predicted.” — TV Guide.

☆☆☆ “The new series works better than it should. It elides some of the worst of the novel’s degradation of women, streamlines as best it can the most verbose of the vignettes and builds out Yossarian into a character whose angst we feel. Yet the series, in thrall to and in the shadow of one of the most sharply written novels of its era, never finds a way to live on its own.” — Variety.

☆☆ “The soundtrack is peppered with uptempo big-band hits including ‘No Love No Nothin’,’ by Rosemary Clooney (aunt of George), and ‘Massachusetts,’ by Anita O’Day. These are meant to be ironic counterpoints to Yossarian’s grim missions, but they often feel like an inadvertent critique of the story they’re accompanying. The songs, even the ballads, have rhythm and forward momentum that Catch-22 consistently lacks. The humour stumbles when it should swing.” — Rolling Stone.

☆☆☆ “Scenes between actors are often funny and rich. And then the picture wanders off to find another human encounter, leaving dead air in its wake. … While the performances can be both comic and moving, the actors are mostly playing types—there’s a sense of Central Casting to the characterisations, which may be the intent.” — Wall Street Journal.

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