Main cast: Nicolas Cage (Sergeant Joe Enders), Adam Beach (Private Ben Yahzee), Peter Stormare (Sergeant Eric Hjelmstad), Noah Emmerich (Corporal Charles 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 Steven Spielberg hadn’t done 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. But with no coherent structure and instead overdosing of stale caricatures and plot devices, this movie isn’t any good as a character war drama.
As usual the actual history is always better than the movie. Set in World War 2, which this movie like almost all World War 2 movies telling me that it’s an all Americans vs Japanese dude-brawl 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 Whitehorse 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 damn 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 Ms 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 sad puppy from hell eyes are still zapping evil invisible lasers on the unwary. Christian Slater is wasted as his one-dimensional foil, Willie is wasted as the fat discardable one. Adam Beach loves doing that placid calm face thing, but can he show another facial expression once in a while?
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 death ray 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, Windtalkers is all hot air and nothing else.