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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

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Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

Back in 1942, during W.W.II, 400 patriotic young Americans from the Navajo nation were recruited and trained by the Marines to use their native language to transmit secret military information. They were dubbed 'windtalkers,' a name that evokes their spirituality and culture. Their mission's success was vital to our victory in the Pacific and theirs was the only code never broken by the Japanese. Since it was imperative "to protect the code at all costs," the Marines assigned to watch over the Navajos in combat faced a provocative moral dilemma: if a Navajo was captured, his Marine escort would have to kill him rather than have him taken prisoner.

Dour Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage) is war-weary, suffering serious eardrum damage and post-traumatic stress. Yet his devotion to duty propels him back into battling the Japanese in the Saipan invasion, where he's partnered with friendly yet fearful Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), who transmits radio bulletins from the front-lines to his pal Charlie Whitehorse (Roger Willie), who's guarded by genial Ox Anderson (Christian Slater) - and this latter duo's wood flute-harmonica duets are poignant. Mark Ruffalo, Noah Emmerich, Brian Van Holt, Martin Henderson and Peter Stormare complete the stereotypical platoon. The hypothetical premise is challenging but writers John Rice & Joe Batteer lift liberally from Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line," plus other war movies, and their weak, simplistic dialogue is drenched with clichés. Director John Woo stages some harrowing, graphic combat sequences and scores with several solid, suspenseful moments that determine who will survive. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Windtalkers" is a compelling 8, revealing and reveling in the ingenuity and bravery of these unsung Navajo heroes.

Copyright © 2002 Susan Granger

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