Windtalkers (2002)
Main cast: Nicolas Cage (Sergeant Joe Enders), Adam Beach (Private Ben Yahzee), Peter Stormare (Sergeant Eric 'Gunny' Hjelmstad), Noah Emmerich (Corporal Charles 'Chick' Rogers), Mark Ruffalo (Pappas), Brian Van Holt (Harrigan), Martin Henderson (Nellie), Roger Willie (Private Charles Whitehorse), Frances O'Connor (Nurse Rita Swelton), Christian Slater (Sergeant Peter 'Ox' Henderson)
Director: John Woo

Poor John Woo. If that upstart Spielberg didn't do a Saving Private Ryan first, he may have something in his hands with Windtalkers: a slightly less smelly turd of a war movie, that is. With no coherent structure, it may aim to be a lofty "character war drama" ala that equally overrated The Thin Red Line. But overdosing of stale caricatures and plot devices, this movie isn't any good as a character war drama either.

As usual the actual history is always better than the movie. Set in World War II, which this movie like almost all World War 2 movies will try to tell me that it's an All Americans vs Japanese Dudes thing, this movie revolves around the Navajo soldiers recruited to transmit messages in a code spoken in their tongue on the battlefield. This is the story of two such soldiers: Charles Whitehoese and Ben Yahzee. Charles, the fat one, naturally isn't the hero, in case you're wondering.

The movie starts with the Obligatory Bloody War thing, where our hero Joe Enders loses his men and Will Never Get Close To Anyone Again Because Dang It, He Needs A Trauma. Frances O'Connor make a brief appearance as a useless nurse who has a thing for him and writes corny schmaltzy nonsense to him by mail. No wonder he doesn't want to read them - neither do I, but poor me, I have to listen to O'Connor voiceovers though. He and a happy harmonica peace-loving equality and love y'all soldier named Ox are soon assigned to protect the code: protect Yahzee and Whitehorse, and if necessary, kill those two to protect the code. But can they do it once they do the male bonding thing?

Nicolas Cage is less irritating here, although his Evil Eyes of Doom are still zapping evil invisible lasers on the unwary. Christian Slater is wasted as the one-dimensional Woodstocky foil, Willie is wasted as the fat discardable one, and Beach? Oh, Beach, I know you love doing that placid calm face thing, but can you, uh, get another expression? Botox is paging its new poster boy.

The Navajos here are all-knowing Holy Moly caricatures, in touch with the secrets of the earth, and all that rot. Joe Enders is the usual grouchy blank-stared mule-faced guy trademarked by Nicolas Cage, and oh yeah, he gets to do the heroic thing in the end. Meanwhile, the soldier that shows everybody the picture of his loved one is the first to be blown away, but after he has asked his friend to send his words to his girlie, et cetera. The same old wartime schtick, they're all here, right down to the bigot who learn a lesson in international diplomacy after he is saved by the object of his affections.

What is nice? I'm in love with Mark Ruffalo. His Pappas makes blowing into a paper bag sexy. And he has the best lines too. But since Mark Ruffalo is a lovely shade of autumn, has more hair than an Aryan centerfold should have, and has sexy eyes instead of those evil deathray eyes of Cage, this movie ain't Saving Private Pappas. What a pity.

It may be very nicely filmed, and the cinematography is excellent. But with a lame-brained script that retreads all the tired old wartime story schticks, Windtalkers is all hot air and nothing else.

Rating: 66

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