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Series of Catch-22 defies book’s ‘unfilmable’ reputation

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Issue 2660
Christopher Abbot shines as Yossarian

Christopher Abbot shines as Yossarian

The new TV adaptation of Catch 22 captures the ridiculous and unsettling atmosphere of Joseph Heller’s classic novel.

The story of Yossarian, a bombardier who is desperate to escape the war alive, still stands as a brilliant commentary on the futility of war.

The cast of pilots and their superiors are absurd. Each are trying to escape their own personal hell brought on by the Second World War.

Sergeant Major Major Major suffers mockery over his name, colonel Cathcart repeatedly raises the number of missions to be flown in an attempt to be promoted to general.

Yossarian, at the centre of the farce, is driven mad both by his fellow soldiers, and his fear of the war.

Through him we see the contradictions of Heller’s satirical commentary.

The dialogue is a highlight of both the book and this series.

Conversations between sergeants and their superiors become more confusing and hilarious the longer they go on. Everything goes in circles, allowing the viewer to become as baffled as the characters.

This makes for great entertainment.

Underneath all the confusion and satire, though, lies a sinister truth—through the eyes of these soldiers we see some of the horror of war.

Yossarian’s plight perfectly illustrates the devastating effects of PTSD. While we laugh at his attempts to escape, his trauma is displayed as harrowing.

The horrors of war are everywhere in the series, masked with dark humour. Planes land with their engines on fire, bureaucracy smothers any attempts at preserving wellbeing.

George Clooney and Hugh Laurie both give impressive performances as senior officers, Christopher Abbot shines as Yossarian, and the cinematography is worthy of a feature-length film.

Catch 22 has previously been hailed as unfilmable—despite the 1970 adaptation. This mini-series disproves that claim. Often laugh out loud funny, and always disorientating, it is a must?see.

Gabby Thorpe 


Radio is a “story about memory, love and spaceships”.

Charlie Fairbanks was born in the dead centre of the United States at the dead centre of the twentieth century.

Americans are going to the Moon and Charlie’s sure he’ll be the first one there. But as he shines his spotlight on the Moon, so too does it illuminate the darker side to his nation’s history.

David Smith

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park presents a major exhibition of over 40 works by US artist David Smith who was one of the first to produce welded, openwork metal sculpture

This is the first solo exhibition of Smith’s work in Britain and the largest ever outside London.

Until 5 January 2020. At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park


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