During World War II when the Americans needed to find a secure method of communicating they devised a code using the Navajo language. So Navajos were recruited to become what they call code talkers. They would be assigned to a unit and would communicate with other units using the code so that even though the enemy could listen they couldn't understand what they were saying. And to insure that the code is protected men are assigned to protect it at all costs. One of these men is Joe Enders, a man who sustained an injury that can make him unfit for duty but he manages to avoid it and is told of his duty and that the man he is suppose to protect is Ben Yahzee. Initially there is tension but the two men learn to get along. Written by
George Smith, one of the Navajo code talkers who helped the U.S. military outfox the Japanese during World War II by sending messages in their obscure language, has died, the president of the Navajo Nation said on 2 November 2012. See more »
At about 37 min. into the movie during the first Saipan battle and just before one marine says to another "How am I doing?" And the other one says "you're OK now", there is an aerial view of the battle and at the upper right corner is a black camera helicopter flying sideways along the ridge. See more »
Imagine "The Thin Red Line" if it were more conventional
"Windtalkers" (2002) stars Nicolas Cage as a follow-the-orders-at-all-costs soldier who's assigned to protect a code talker (Adam Beach), a Navajo who speaks his native language on radio transmissions to conceal the data from the Japanese. Christian Slater plays a similar soldier assigned to another Navajo (Roger Willie). The movie details the Battle of Saipan and also stars Noah Emmerich, Mark Ruffalo, Brian Van Holt, Peter Stormare and Frances O'Connor.
I was surprised by how good "Windtalkers" is. I say 'surprised' because it lacks the mass hoopla surrounding other WWII films, like 1998's overrated "Saving Private Ryan" (don't get me wrong, the first act of "Ryan" is great, but the rest of the movie leaves a lot to be desired. Remember the lame dog tag sequence?). The film was made by John Woo who knows how to make an exciting and colorful action flick, as witnessed by 1996' "Broken Arrow." "Windtalkers" cost a whopping $115 million to make and you definitely see it on the screen; unfortunately, it 'only' made back $75 million worldwide.
Both 1998's "The Thin Red Line" and "Windtalkers" involve the Pacific Theater of WWII and the taking of Japanese-held islands. While I consider "The Thin Red Line" a nigh-masterpiece, it's too meditative and spiritual if you're in the mood for a straight war flick. When that's the case, "Windtalkers" satisfies just fine. Remember the incredible air raid sequence in 1979's "Apocalypse Now"? That's the impression I got with the opening scenes of the Battle of Saipan in "Windtalkers."
Some complain that not enough emphasis is put on the code talkers, but the two Navajos are major characters throughout the story, particularly the one played by Beach. As for their actual code-talking, what else needs to be shown? The complaint holds no water.
Others complain about the utter annihilation of throngs of Japanese soldiers, but the statistics support this: There were 71,000 allied forces and 31,000 Japanese soldiers in the battle. 'Only' 3,426 allied forces died, while another 10,000 were wounded, but 24,000 Japs were killed and another 5000 committed suicide, while 921 were taken captive. On top of this 22,000 civilians died, mostly by suicide, in obedience to the imperial order of Emperor Hirohito encouraging the civilians of Saipan to commit suicide promising them an equal status in the afterlife with that of soldiers dying in battle.
Ultimately, "Windtalkers" lacks that special flair or perspective that denotes truly exception war movies, like "Apocalypse Now," "Platoon," "Where Eagles Dare" and "The Blue Max," but "Windtalkers" isn't far behind. The main difference is that it's more of a conventional war flick but, of course, that's all it needs to be.
The film runs 134 minutes and was shot in Hawaii and the greater Los Angeles area.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?