Directed by John Woo. USA. 2002.
Windtalkers is a historical drama set in World War II. It attempts to tell the story of a lifesaving code that was used by the US military; the Navajo language. Each ďWindtalkerĒ (Navajo officer) is paired with a member of the US Marines, to be protected by them. But the code is the Marineís first responsibility. Should any of the ďWindtalkersĒ be caught by enemy forces, their Marine must kill them.
Nicholas Cage (Snake Eyes, 8 MM) plays Joe Enders, a Marine guard for ďWindtalkerĒ Ben Yahzee. Here is an actor that is capable of so much emotion, lost in a role thatís too small for his abilities. Heís emotionless and cold. During the first moments when I was being introduced to his character, I found myself so overwhelmed by the gore that I wasnít giving enough thought to Enders. Itís difficult to decide whether or not you like a character with blood spurting past you on screen every two seconds. There are some moments where you almost get the sense that Cage was trying to sneak emotion past the director, as bits of furtive rage come bubbling forth, but stop far too quickly. Endersí most likeable moment comes from choking a fellow officer, instead of where it should have come from; some form of friendship developing with Yahzee. Although there are some valiant efforts by Cage to turn your opinion of Enders around in the second act of the film, ultimately itís just not enough to make you root for the character. Brilliant moments of looking haggard and lost? Yes. Compelling moments of movie drama? No.
Christian Slater (Murder in the First) plays the plays the most likeable soldier in the film (though with the band he had to compete with thatís not saying very much) Ox. Earnest, and sweet, his attempts to be the enlightened member of the squadron when speaking with the two Navajo officers are genuinely charming. Slaterís final scene in this film is the only one that allows him to demonstrate any of his acting, but sadly all of Slaterís abilities are overwhelmed by the absurd number of body parts hurtling through the air during his last moments. This is a part that could have been fantastic for Slater, but like his role in Murder in the First itís not big enough, and itís not in the right environment to launch him forwards into big-namedom where he belongs..
The poorly developed characters could have been overlooked, but I canít let the INCREDIBLY tasteless style and script go by without comment. I have been to a number of war films in my day, and like many of my fellow audience members, can grasp the fact that war is brutal without having to sit through peopleís knees being blown off for my amusement. Blackhawk Down is a violent film. The Thin Red Line is another. With both of those however, what sticks with you is the story, and the people. I remember Ron Eldardís moments in Blackhawk Down when he was fighting against capture. I remember Jim Caviezelís moments in The Thin Red Line running from enemy soldiers. The only snapshots I have from Windtalkers are the nausea-inducing ones. i.e During a battle scene, one of the band of soldiers gets shot. A friend leaps over a barbed wire fence to assist him, running across a dangerous field. He reaches the wounded man, and hoists him up over his shoulders. While running back to join his group, the rescuer gets shot in the back of both legs, and manages to hurl his friend over the barbed wire fence before becoming ensnared in it himself.
That I could have dealt with. The fact that he was then used as a footbridge by soldiers on both sides to go up and over the fence was WAY too much. Amazingly thatís one of the tamer battle moments.
Admittedly this story
is beautifully laid out, with breath-taking scenery. After 90 minutes of
elbows flying every which way that arenít attached to any arms as they
take flight, youíre just too ambivalent to care about the awe-inspiring
mountain ridge that director John Woo is displaying. Itís just a GIRLíS
opinion, but I think that the message of war being horrible is better displayed
through character development, and a good story (how many years was it
that M*A*S*H was
on the air?) not through leaving the audience with the thought that the
film crew didnít want to let one spare drop of fake blood go to waste.
Itís a shame really, because the story of the Native Americans' part in
World War II is an incredibly powerful one. In John Wooís hands however,
this story of potentially unlimited strength means absolutely nothing to
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