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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Windtalkers

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach
Director: John Woo
Rated: R
RunTime: 133 Minutes
Release Date: June 2002
Genres: Action, Drama, War

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

There's nothing like a remake to generate strong box office results. In WINDTALKERS, director John Woo (FACE/OFF) has apparently remade TO HELL AND BACK with Nicolas Cage taking on the Audie Murphy role. The World War II film is a rousing saga in which Cage, as Sergeant Joe Enders, single-handedly kills hundreds of enemy soldiers.

At a distance of over a hundred yards and using just a pistol, Enders is able to kill man after man without wasting a single bullet. Although he is a marksman with Olympic shooting skills, he is just one of many amazing American soldiers in the battle. Rarely missing -- or even getting their hair messed up -- our soldiers take out at least a dozen Japanese soldiers each. The Japanese, on the other hand, aren't near as good as sharpshooters. Filled with constant explosions and flying bodies, the movie produces an adrenaline rush much like a hard-fought video game in which you keep winning in the end.

Oh yeah, there's also a subplot about Navajo "code talkers," which is nominally the main theme of the story. This original part of the picture could have been fascinating. In a strong and touching performance, Adam Beach plays Private Ben Yahzee, the Navajo code talker whom Enders has been assigned to watch over and to kill if Yahzee is ever about to be captured by the enemy. Like the much better ENIGMA, the heart of WINDTALKERS is supposed to be about coded signals. In World War II we actually used Navajos to speak coded messages on the battlefield since their language sounds were nearly unintelligible to the Japanese code breakers.

Enders, who bears emotional and physical scars from a previous battle, has a single assignment of guarding Yahzee. Generally ignoring his orders, Enders spends most of the movie fighting a one-man war, hoping that Yahzee will tag along behind.

Noah Emmerich plays Corporal Charles 'Chick' Rogers, a southern racist who verbally and physically harasses the Navajos. The clichéd script, of course, features a scene in which his life is miraculously saved by one of Navajo he has been abusing.

Randall Wallace's WE WERE SOLDIERS told a powerful and convincing story of men at war. In contrast, John Woo's WINDTALKERS, while it provides visceral satisfaction, is basically one long missed opportunity, as it eschews story in favor of pyrotechnics and eschews Navajos in favor of star power. This should have been the Navajos' picture, not Cage's.

WINDTALKERS runs way too long at 2:14. It is rated R for "pervasive graphic war violence, and for language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes

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