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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.79%
Worth A Look36.26%
Average: 21.98%
Pretty Bad: 20.88%
Total Crap: 12.09%

6 reviews, 55 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"Woo: Focus yourself. Tell one story. Get rid of Frances O'Connor."
4 stars

If “Windtalkers” were just about the Windtalkers -- the Navajo Indians whose encoded language helped America win World War II -- it would be a great film. That story is noble, and not often told. It has drama inherent in it.

But director John Woo has chosen to make a movie that tells not just of the Windtalkers, but of the general horrors of war, complete with gore and dismemberment and trauma and cliches. How war freaks people out, and how terrible the thing is -- that story is told all the time, and it’s being told again here. If you’ve seen “We Were Soldiers” or “Saving Private Ryan,” you’ve seen most of “Windtalkers.”

The heart of the film concerns Private Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), a Navajo from Arizona who enlists with his friend Charlie Whitehorse (Roger Willie) to help the United States with a new plan for winning the war in the Pacific. The Japanese won’t be able to break America’s codes if they’re spoken in a language the Japanese have never heard before: Navajo.

Yahzee, Whitehorse and their tribesmen are vital, then, and Sgt. Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage) is assigned to guard Yahzee with his life, and to prevent the code from falling into Japanese hands at all costs.

A sergeant named Ox (Christian Slater) is Whitehorse’s babysitter, and much keener on the idea at first than Enders is. Enders’ reluctance is due to being bitter after watching his men die in a botched mission on the Solomon Islands. Enders himself suffered some hearing loss, but he cheated his way back into battle in a completely unnecessary sequence that involved a pretty nurse (Frances O’Connor) hitting on him. (Later, she writes him letters, and he never answers them, and I honestly don’t know why she’s even in the movie. Honestly.)

The Navajos are integrated into the ranks, where of course there is a racist soldier (Noah Emmerich) with a Southern accent who hates them, and of course one of them will eventually save his life and he’ll have to reconsider his anti-non-Caucasian stance.

They head out to the island of Saipan, where before we can see the usefulness of the codetalkers -- which really should be next on the film’s agenda -- we first must endure a lengthy battle sequence where men yell, “We gotta get outta here!” and “Noooooooo!” a lot, and where they shoot faceless Japanese soldiers. They are all led by a Scandinavian commander played by Peter Stormare, whose accent -- toned down from real life but not toned down enough -- is giggle-inducing.

Eventually, we see how valuable the Navajo soldiers are, and Yahzee and Enders’ uncomfortable relationship grows into a working friendship. There is also some good, respectful treatment of Indian spiritualism -- again, the film is strongest when it concentrates on aspects of the war not previously over-done in other films.

Nicolas Cage is over-the-top in his more energetic battle moments, but in the quiet moments between skirmishes, he occasionally connects. Adam Beach, meanwhile, delivers a finely tuned performance as Yahzee. He grins a lot for most of the movie, and then surprises you with some wrenching emotion in the last act. He is an actor to watch.

Strip “Windtalkers” of all its excess debris and you’ve got a 90-minute, four-star film. As it is, it’s too long and too unfocused. The trend continues: Movies have original ideas, but they get scared and retreat to familiar, heavily trod territory.

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originally posted: 06/14/02 04:36:50
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good action thats about it 3 stars
8/05/13 SniperSarge I enjoyed the movie 4 stars
11/29/07 Bnorm Shameful piece of dookie. Nic Cage is in no way bad ass. At all. 1 stars
9/27/07 Sugarfoot John Woo has lost it, period. See A Bullet In The Head over this junk 1 stars
9/18/07 Fast Cow i love this movie. natives rule....yay adam beach..... 5 stars
4/19/07 Stevo UK Another film where the hero stands in plain sight killing millions of baddies. 3 stars
4/13/07 David Pollastrini a bit slow in places but still good. 4 stars
3/01/07 Mouse it sucks 1 stars
7/29/06 arvi excellent movie 5 stars
5/19/06 drydock54321 not the best. but ok 3 stars
11/21/05 Quigley the movie would have better if it wasn't so poorly cast. the navajos were the best 3 stars
10/03/05 Hawaiian Shoot me if I ever want to see another John Woo film again! Total waste of a great story 1 stars
8/24/05 ES Here's your 1st hint- directed by John Woo, 2nd- starring Nic Cage 1 stars
2/15/05 R.W. Welch May have the highest body count ever. A few good scenes. 3 stars
2/04/05 Dan Pretty Good actually, kind of hollywoodish, but what do you expect in a Woo Film? 4 stars
1/17/05 Landshark Adam Beach & Roger Willie characters not given development, just orders...*YAWN* 2 stars
12/10/04 Steve Newman Disappointed that the "Windtalker" story was not enhanced. War scenes great 4 stars
8/24/04 albert very good woo 4 stars
7/01/04 "Meth Lab" for Dummies. Not a bad flick... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/10/04 Derek Denfeld I loved the movie. the graphics were soo awesome. i think yazee was the best character 5 stars
1/11/04 The Wizard of Flix Cage thinking Oscar again but only succeeding in presenting himself as Hamlet in a High S 2 stars
11/30/03 john inept! John Woo made his good movies in Hong Kong 1 stars
11/29/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) It's OK, but the war scenes are never very powerful. Not up to John Woo par. 3 stars
6/26/03 cochese dissapointingly horrible. 1 stars
6/26/03 J Really cool! 4 stars
6/04/03 Picky critic Great idea for a movie, but everything-especially the fighting scenes--seems very contrived 1 stars
6/04/03 liz we watched it in class and one girl kept on freking 5 stars
6/03/03 Charles Tatum Woo overdirects a corny underwritten script 2 stars
5/16/03 mr. Pink clichèd and Cage's bad. But Woo sometimes excites with his orchestra of violence 3 stars
4/24/03 Andrew Carden Underrated, Misunderstood Drama With Fantastic Performances. 5 stars
4/08/03 Vince kickass explosions and people getting fucked up. no story. 4 stars
2/20/03 Ian Jesus. So poor I could weep. 1 stars
12/23/02 Ryback Good, but not great, liked the music and slow motion 4 stars
11/10/02 Bob Nesbitt Very predictable-seen the same plot in hundreds of war films. 3 stars
10/22/02 cinkcool Good. 4 stars
9/25/02 Carly All Woo knows how to do is blow up things. How about talking about the Windtalkers more. 2 stars
8/30/02 Edith the Maid and Meredith the Mermaid Improtant story, sloppily told 4 stars
8/29/02 Dean expected sooo much more. My mistake 1 stars
8/28/02 viking Better than Pearl Harbour, but a long way behind Saving Private Ryan 3 stars
8/19/02 Mr. Hat (I'm Back!) Another great John Woo movie. 4 stars
8/19/02 stryper rocks Too many gasoline-enhanced explosions. How about developing the Navajo characters more? 3 stars
8/17/02 brainiac adam beach & george willie great; war gore, slater's harmonica & oconnor's role bad... 2 stars
7/05/02 malcolm once again, Woo shows American filmmakers how it's done 4 stars
6/21/02 spaceworm Too loud to hear any talking; lots of wind, where a gentle breeze would do. 3 stars
6/19/02 thejames not the most complex plot but one of the more ENTERTAINING ww2 movies in recent years. 4 stars
6/18/02 Charles Goin Not your typical war movie and that point seems to have been missed by far too many. 5 stars
6/17/02 Todd A slap in the face of all WW2 vets. 2 stars
6/17/02 Waste of money A one dimensional, cliche ridden, corny crapfest! 1 stars
6/17/02 "Yes the shit." A very poor movie. Action sequences sometimes makes no sense. What a waste. 2 stars
6/17/02 Anarchy Azmi nothing but a lot of japanese dying everywhere 3 stars
6/15/02 Nick2k i liked it...but i'm getting bored with war flicks, mr. & mrs. hollywood.... 4 stars
6/13/02 S M I could not watch a lot of this movie because of the graphic violence. I was horrified to 3 stars
6/12/02 Crystrial Murphy I loved the Native actors. The action graphics were extremely surprising. 4 stars
6/07/02 Jaydeep I love most John Woo flicks, but this one really disappointed me. 3 stars
6/07/02 Kris Bates Masterpiece 5 stars
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  14-Jun-2002 (R)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2006



Directed by
  John Woo

Written by
  John Rice
  Joe Batteer

  Nicolas Cage
  Kevin Cooney
  Noah Emmerich
  Christian Slater
  Peter Stormare
  Adam Beach

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