‘Windtalkers’ just plain stinks

Adam Beach and Nicolas Cage in 'Windtalkers'
Adam Beach and Nicolas Cage in ‘Windtalkers’

[rating=1]Starring: Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Peter Stormare, Noah Emmerich, Mark Ruffalo, Brian Van Hold, Roger Willie, Frances O’Conner and Christian Slater
Director(s): John Woo
Writer(s): John Rice and Joe Batteer

I like a good old fashioned war movie. Explosions, action, rough and tumble soldiers in the thick of battle. Great stuff. But, not all war movies are the same.

For example, Windtalkers just plain sucks.

Now, like John Woo’s films. I think he’s a talented filmmaker. I liked Face Off, I liked Broken Arrow. But, I mean, this movie is so sloppy and horribly acted, I couldn’t believe it was by the same director. I mean, he’s not perfect, but he’s much better than this.

Windtalkers is supposedly about the Navajo Indians who were used to develop a new code that the U.S. used during the war in the Pacific. Basically, the code used the Navajo language, and Navajo Indians volunteered to operate a “code talkers” to speak and decode this special code in the battlefield. It proved unbreakable by the Japanese and is credited for being one of the factors that led to the U.S. victory.

The film chiefly follows Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage), a shell-shocked Marine who is put in charge of protecting one of these Navajo, Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach). The catch, however, is that Enders must protect the code at all costs. This means he cannot allow his code talker to fall into enemy hands, killing him if necessary.

The basic premise here is, I think, dynamite. Human drama at its finest. The execution of that premise, however, is just plain bad.

For me, the film began to falter in the first minute. We meet Enders in the middle of a vicious battle that leads to the death of all his men. During this scene, one Marine gets his hand chopped off. His hand’s on a rock, and a Japanese soldier runs out and cuts it off. But, the way the Marine pulls his arm back is so fake that you can tell he’s simply pulling his hand away hidden in his sleeve.

Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach in 'Windtalkers'
Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach in ‘Windtalkers’

The film is littered with little moments that like. The battles sequences are horribly choreographed and shot. Woo is noted for his fluid camera and action sequences, but this film is like a half-assed actioner. I find it hard to believe that a real director like Woo had anything to do with this film.

The acting is also lousy. Cage seemed to phone in his performance. Slater doesn’t even try to act, which isn’t too bad since he’s really not in much of the film and none of his scenes really required much emotion. Not much of an excuse, but you can forgive it. Cage’s lackluster performance, however, you can’t. It’s so melodramatic that it’s hard to feel any emotion for the character. Enders is already difficult to like, and Cage doesn’t make it any easier.

Adam Beach, who I think is a truly fine actor, over does it a bit in some of his action scenes. It comes off a bit like he’s trying too hard to be a serious, bloody thirsty soldier towards the end. But, overall, he’s the only plus in this film wrought with minuses.

What I found most disappointing with this tale, however, was that it basically washes over the whole Navajo cold talking storyline. I mean, it’s there, but the film doesn’t really focus on it. I was hoping more for a movie that was about he experience of the Native American in World War II. But, the film was more focused on Cage and his struggle, which wasn’t terribly interesting or unique. The Navajo experience had much more to offer, I think, and was sadly given second billing.

The saddest part of Windtalkers was that it was two hours and fifteen minutes long. I mean, please, I’m all for lengthy movies. But, when a movie as terrible as this is that long, you’re pretty much begging for it to be over long before the actual conclusion arrives.

Now, there is a special edition version of this DVD, featuring commentaries and 20 extra minutes. The DVD I viewed was the bare-bones version, with no features except for a few trailers is all there is here. Still, the idea of watching 20 more minutes of this film just disturbs me, so I guess I was better off with this version.

Rated: R
Run Time:  2 hrs., 14 mins.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

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