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
The film was slated to be released at Christmas 2001 for Oscar consideration in a version that ran 153 Minutes. However, MGM pushed back the film due to the events of 9/11 and later released as Summer film in June 2002 in a shortened, less graphic version of 134 Minutes which lost the essence of the storyline despite it's violence. See more »
In the final combat, just after the Japanese uncover their guns, one of them take a shot but the recoil is a good half second too late. See more »
Due to restrictions/limitations in the German retail market at the time, MGM also released a cut version on DVD which misses ca. 12 minutes of footage. This version is rated "Not under 16" (uncut version has a "Not under 18" rating). See more »
Following the justifiably forgotten Hard Target, the formulaic Broken Arrow, the magnificent Face/Off and the trash metal Mission Impossible 2, Windtalkers marks the next step in John Woo's unsteady path through Hollywood, and his most mature mainstream movie yet.
The plot revolves around Sergeant Joe Enders (Nicholas Cage) and Private Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), two members of the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, and their burgeoning friendship in the middle of their battalion's costly advances on the Japanese army in Saipan. Cage is a world-weary misanthrope who has successfully found his niche in the military, and now finds himself struggling to come to terms with it. He is assigned to protect Beach, one of the 'windtalkers' of the title, during the upcoming mission that could help turn the tide of the war in America's favour. Ultimately however, his orders are to remain loyal to the code that Beach speaks, which has been based on the Navajo language, at all costs and not to the man himself, who is to be treated as expendable... What will happen under the intense pressure of a war zone, where men are forced together in the most extreme conditions for any hope of survival?
Perhaps because he finds himself dealing with real material, Woo seems to have let his characters become real people more than in any of his previous work. The fact that two actors as talented as Cage and Beach are involved certainly helped matters, and in fact Beach even outshines his more decorated peer, as his progression from a happy-go-lucky, rather naïve family man to a battle-hardened warrior is nothing short of exemplary. Woo's direction is again the true saving grace though, in particular the marvellous shot that introduces us to the war: a butterfly flutters over a beautiful clear river, which slowly turns a vicious shade of red as the mutilated corpse of a soldier floats past... gunfire breaks out and we find ourselves in the middle of hell.
Of course, what would a war film (or, for that matter, a Woo film) be without discussing the battle scenes? The sweeping Japanese landscapes are really Hawaiian but hey, they still look the part and do more than enough to reaffirm the trailer's message that `... the world's a beautiful place.' Woo's skilful use of contradicting beauty with violence can prove to be rather repetitive but it is certainly utilised in droves in these settings and, even though the carnage is certainly not on the traumatic levels of Saving Private Ryan, it is certainly vivid enough to deter the squeamish. Limbs are blown off, bodies are scattered without a second thought, and as for the fate that awaits Sergeant Ryan Anderson (Christian Slater)...
In the end it is clear that Windtalkers is not a perfect film by any means. Although the acting and direction are terrific the writing lets the end product down, particularly as it feels like there is no real end in sight, or even anything to aim for. We are never told why Saipan is worth fighting for, while the love interest (provided by Frances O'Conner in a thankless role) disappears without trace halfway through the film. Luckily for us though, this time Woo has managed to mould his uniquely romantic violence around an intelligent observation of comradeship amidst the most unfriendly of conditions, with an end scene that is genuinely moving.
All this and no doves in sight!
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