Customer Review

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good story lies buried in here somewhere, 12 Sep 2006
This review is from: Windtalkers [DVD] [2002] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
From mid-1942 to the end of the Pacific war, approximately 400 Navajo Indians served in all six Marine divisions, Marine Raider battalions and Marine parachute units as "code talkers". Their job was to transmit military traffic by radio and telephone in their native language. It was a code the Japanese never cracked. This is the inner kernel of the script for WINDTALKERS.

Nicolas Cage plays Sgt. Joe Enders. He's already demonstrated his ability to follow orders. In the Solomon Islands campaign, his unit fought to the last man - Enders himself - to defend some piece of scummy swamp. After recovering from injuries, Joe is assigned as guardian to a newly enlisted Navajo, Pvt. Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), who's a rookie radioman in a Marine recon outfit that's part of the assault on Saipan. Joe's orders are to protect the Navajo code "at all costs", which means, in effect, that Enders must be ready to kill Yahzee rather than allow the latter to be captured by the enemy.

Director John Woo has buried the nugget of a pretty good story in so many dead bodies and special effects that it's virtually lost to view. Woo must have been trying to outdo WE WERE SOLDIERS and BLACK HAWK DOWN in body count. Even when the beleaguered Marines discover they're almost out of ammo, they still manage to mow down the onrushing Japanese in scores. Joe Enders himself, suffering the guilt and rage from being the only survivor of his former Solomon Islands unit, is a one man killing machine seemingly capable of storming Tokyo single-handed. The hapless Ben finds himself put in harm's way as he's forced to trail along after his minder and watch the carnage. The combat action isn't even always plausible. At one point, a Marine infantry column in a valley is having the bejeezus kicked out of it by Japanese artillery entrenched on a ridgeline. Somewhere between the two, the last of our heroes' recon unit is scrambling to recover a radio - the last one on Earth apparently - with which an air strike can be called in to paste the bad guys. Are you telling me that the larger Marine detachment in the valley didn't have its own communications gear to call for help?

I'm awarding three generous stars to WINDTALKERS solely on the strength of Cage's gritty performance as the vengeance-obsessed Enders. And although Beach has extensive screen time as the naive Navajo who must become a warrior while under fire, he rarely serves as much more than a foil for Joe's wild-eyed blood lust. The battle sequences themselves are fairly good, though those in the other two films mentioned in this review are a cut above by far. Quantity doesn't necessarily equate with quality.

If anything, this film may inspire the viewer to do additional research on the role of the World War II Navajo code talkers. That, I guess, is something.
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