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Windtalkers (2002)
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Review Date: October 14, 2002
Director: John Woo
Writer: John Rice, Joe Batteer
Producers: John Woo, Terence Chang
Actors:
Nicolas Cage
Adam Beach
Christian Slater
Plot:
Back during WWII, the Americans developed a secret code to communicate based on the Navajo language and brought along some actual Navajo to help. In this film, it is the duty of two chosen Marines to protect these codes under any circumstances, including the possibility of the Navajo Marines being taken hostage by the enemy. A tough gig ensues.
Critique:
Interesting enough, with some decent war stuff, a nice connection between the two lead Marines (no, not that kind of connection!) and a story worth telling, but at the end of the day, nothing particularly spectacular, especially when you consider the two men leading the project, director John Woo and actor Nicolas Cage. With Woo barely putting forth any distinctive style or originality, and Cage, while delivering some goods, not really coming through during the film's more potent moments (although this could also be attributed to the half-assed screenplay), I don't think either man need to consider this film for addition to their respective "best of" lists. One specific scene with Cage in which he says something along the lines of "I was just doing my job..." near the end of the film, falls particularly flat. And even though the core of the picture is meant to embed this deeper connection between Cage and his Navajo partner, played quite well by Adam Beach, and I did ultimately feel something for the two men...it didn't go as deep as I'd hoped (especially when you consider the film's two-hour+ runtime, which could easily have been cut by about 20 minutes without missing a beat). Less developed still is the other twosome in the flick, played by Christian Slater and Roger Willie, to whom we are also supposed to relate, but with whom we are essentially given two flute-playing scenes (alright, one of them plays the harmonica, but you get the point), and no real emotional investment. When the "shit goes down" between that duo...the emotion is seen, but not felt.

The "war stuff" in the film is pretty well done overall, especially the first major movement into the island of Saipan, which features some decent combat scenarios (although what was with the stock footage of those battleships?), but the over-the-top explosions began to take a toll by the film's third big battle sequence, and ultimately, my attention started to waver ("Wow, look at my collection of dvds...it's getting pretty big, eh? No pornos though. Oops...the movie!"). Once more, I think a snip of the film's runtime might've helped this gripe out as well. As for the story, I was pretty engaged most of the time, did see the ending coming miles away but enjoyed the two lead characters' interaction anyway. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is lost in the sea of pyrotechnics, loose writing and clichés, with the typical redneck dude starting shit up, Mark Ruffalo getting completely lost in the shuffle and Slater and Stormare feeling quite out of place (Bad Casting 101). The only "staple" war movie character missing was the "gun crazy" madman. In fact, most of these dudes seemed a little too sympathetic toward their enemies, if you ask me (the looks on some of their faces when death became of their adversaries didn't exactly scream "Kill 'em all!") Now I might just be "burnt out" on war movies or this puppy just didn't "cut it", but whatever the case, it certainly doesn't warrant anything more than a lazy night's rental with the loved one (it's one of those flicks that will allow you to make out for a few minutes and not necessarily miss all that much from the narrative).

If you're looking for stylized Woo, forget this puppy altogether because after a few early slo-mos, he pretty much disappears behind the booms and the bangs, and doesn't necessarily bring any fresh perspective to the battlefield (no pigeons floating around in slo-mo either). Bottom line: a decent story, a solid showing by Adam Beach (and despite the fact that I generally hate folks who are always chipper, I actually appreciated his ability to let a lot of shit slide off his back in this film), some okay combat sequences but a number of forgettable characters, a lack of emotional conviction and Woo and Cage leaving little more than their basic imprints in the sand, make for an overall mediocre war movie.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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