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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 MP Bartley

"Woo does war.Woo-hoo?"
2 stars

Damn you Spielberg. After 'Saving Private Ryan' most film-makers are still playing catch up when it comes to war films and their fierce reality. Serious gore and violence are now the order of the day, and God help anyone trying to douse their film in casual patriotism or standard cliches from the war genre (hello Randall Wallace and 'We Were Soldiers!). Of the latest rash of war films only 'Black Hawk Down' has really made a significant impact, and that's mostly due to it's ability to tell a story about a battle no-one really knew about. 'Windtalkers' unfortunately has no new tricks up its sleeve.

All it has to rely on is bombast, cliche and a very rare spark of inspiration.

'Windtalkers' is the true story of how Navajho Indians in WW2 were used as code talkers against the Japanese who knew nothing of their language. Due to their importance to the war effort they were assigned to officers who had orders to protect the code 'at all costs'. To kill them rather than let them be captured. One such task falls to haunted Joe Enders (Nicholas Cage) who is given responsibility of Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) as his company moves up Saipan. Also along is Pete 'Ox' Anderson (Christian Slater) and racist Chick (Noah Emmerich).

It's a fascinating basis for a story (even if historically there's little truth in the order that they had to kill the Navjho rather then let them be captured) as a theme of duty versus friendship is explored, but unfortunately Woo goes nowhere near depth, opting instead for pretty explosions and lots of bangs. Could this be the film where Woo's limitations are exposed? Well after this, 'Mission Impossible 2', 'Broken Arrow' etc it's hard to see where the hype for him comes from. All he seems to do is lots of slo-mo action and people flying around. In slo-mo. He uses so much slo-mo you can't help wondering if those scenes were left at their normal speed if his films would be actually last longer than an hour.

Woo certainly has no idea of how to avoid war cliches. Young soldier pining for home who asks his friend to send his wedding ring home should he die? Yep, he's in here and he obviously dies. That point couldn't have been more obvious if he had painted a giant bullseye on his back and wandered around the battleground shouting "Hey Japs, here I am! Shoot me I've got a life to go back home for!"

Racist soldier who will inevitably have his life saved by one of the Navajhos and undergo a regretful transformation of his former ways? You betcha.

Some late night campfire bonding complete with harmonica and flute playing? Oh, Mr Woo you're spoiling us.

And the wretched cliches spread to all the characters. Gee, Enders hates himself after his previous company all died under his command. Wonder if he'll initially hate Ben but grudgingly grow to like him thus compromising his mission? Well, duh...

Cage, unfortunately has little to do here apart from looking pained. Whether this was intentional or just his reaction to the script we can't know. Suffice to say, his way of showing inner torment is to look like he's suffering from a hangover. Tom Hanks in 'Saving Private Ryan' this is not. Only once, in a graveyard scene does he approach anything near his talent, most of the time his performance ranging from dull and obvious to giggle inducing.

Adam Beech does no better, looking insufferably smug and pleased with himself all the way through for some reason. I swear to God if I had to see him staring into the middle distance just once more, while he related some old folk tale from home, I was going to set off a grenade myself to take us all out of our misery.

Only Christian Slater gets anywhere near a decent character or performance, but like I said, his character gets nothing much to do apart from play the harmonica.

Even in the battle scenes there's nothing new. Yes, gore and grittiness is the new thing, but here..well it's just not new. Especially after all the battle scenes blur into one. Run up some hills, while a bunch of characters we either don't know or don't care about, get blown up. The first one is good, the fifth one? Zzzzzzz...

And nothing, but NOTHING, excuses the horrendous shot of blatantly recolourised footage of warships firing at sea. Honestly who the hell thought they could get away with that? 50 year old footage right in the middle of a sheeny blockbuster. Woo, how much Sake have you been drinking? Have you shot your editors? Someone should be for that.

'Saving Private Ryan' stripped away all the gloss from Hollywood depictions of war and thrust the horrendous reality into our face. 'Windtalkers' would love to do that but mostly fails. There are noble attempts, Enders self-loathing manifesting itself in a comment he started off as a soldier of Christ but changed sides somewhere along the way. There's also some gut-wrenching close combat and shocking savagery on the battlefield.

Unfortunately a lot of the effect is negated by Woo shooting like it's the most exciting game of kid soldiers ever. I obviously wasn't in WW2 but I'm pretty sure there weren't many forward rolls or backflips in the heat of combat.
And I didn't realise that we won WW2 because the Japanese were such bad shots. Seriously. While Cage and co. can leap into a Japanese foxhole and take out an entire platoon with one burst of their machine gun, the Japanese would seem to need to be standing right in front of someone to even just graze them.

At one point Enders is running with Yahzee slung across his back, while being chased by about a dozen soldiers. And they can only hit the dirt around his feet. This sums 'Windtalkers' up really. It would love to be profound, realistic and heartbreaking. Instead it's shallow, silly and annoying. And considering the 'talent' involved that's a crime. 'Windtalkers'? It's just a bag of hot air.

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originally posted: 09/15/02 02:02:03
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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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