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Bams' review of


Windtalkers (2002)
Rated PG-13; running time 118 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Genre: Action
Seen at: Celebration Cinema (Lansing, Michigan)
Official site:
IMDB site:
Written by: Joe Batteer, John Rice
Directed by: John Woo
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Christian Slater, Peter Stormare, Noah Emmerich, Roger Willie, Mark Ruffalo, Brian Van Holt, Martin Henderson, Frances O'Connor

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

I anticipated going to see Windtalkers for quite some time before it was released. After all, director John Woo and star Nicholas Cage owed me big time for the psychic damage they did to my Disbelief's Suspension with the audacity that was Face/Off - currently the last movie I ever walked out on. Boy, was I ever looking forward to running roughshod on them in this review!

Wouldn't you know it? They both "disappointed" me again, by coming up with a decent-to-good followup action flick. Ah, but there's a very large conditional "but" attached here...

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
On paper, Windtalkers is based on the true story of how Navaho-speaking Native American soldiers were used during World War II to decode top secret messages, since the opposing Japanese Army couldn't break such an unfamiliar language. In this story, Sergeant Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage) reluctantly comes to work with codetalker Private Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) - with orders to "protect the code" at all costs.

But The Story of the movie Windtalkers isn't complete without a close examination of The Ethnic Factor.

THE "ETHNIC FACTOR"    [ObDisclaimer: They Are Not A Monolith]

To paraphrase Black Bart in Blazing Saddles: "Where the Indians at?"

Knowing the habits of mainstream Hollyweird, it does not surprise me one bit that Nicholas Cage is at front and center of the attention in Windtalkers, with John Woo and his ever-present doves a close second; a quick perusal of its trailers and storyline indicate Cage's very John Wayne-like stature throughout. But it is jarring to even a jaded moviegoer like me to expect more than lip service be given to the true story of the Navajo soldiers who had such an impact on the success of the American military in World War II - and ultimately, to realize that that part of the story is the weakest part of the film.

To understand my dismay over the boosting of Enders' point of view at the expense of the drastically weakened impact of the "Indian" story, imagine Tuskegee Airmen without the strong presence of a Lawrence Fishburne or an Andre Braugher carrying the Airmen's banner. Or imagine the story of the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, with the spotlight inappropriately placed on the White lawyer who

Hmmm. Well, you know what I mean. It is only because the action in Windtalkers is so strong, the imagery so vivid, and the implied presence of another Ethnic Factor angle is included - director John Woo's clever handling of what must've been strong issues of his own as concerned "the Japs" - that I am willing to forgive the short shrift played to what really should've been more focus on the tale of the Navaho soldiers themselves. The real shame of it all is that, Native Americans being the "forgotten minority" and all, the likelihood that personable actors like Adam Beach and Roger Willie will have another chance at near-leading roles in future big-budget movies, is close to nil.

Past the issues I have with the Ethnic Factors in Windtalkers (including one I haven't addressed yet: the inference that the military was, for the most part, completely accepting of non-Whites. You better believe my eyes rolled as Noah Emmerich's character was made to look more like an anomaly than a fact of military life back then), I found myself immersed in Woo's vision of war, Cage's strong presence throughout, and especially Adam Beach's infectious smile and tenacious attitude. Each threatened to be too overpowering at times: Woo's camera tended to make his war scenes seem too "full"; Cage reminded me way too much of John Wayne (in my book, most def Not A Good Thing); Beach's ever-present smile brought images of (boy, will I get it for this) grinning slaves to mind.

But combined with strong performances by Christian Slater and Roger Willie as an unusually warm'n'fuzzy (for Slater) Sarge bonding with his own codetalker, I was able to walk away from Windtalkers happy for the first time since Raising Arizona that I spent time in the same theater as Nick Cage. If you're into fast-paced action and can get over the Windtalkers in question being more or less reduced to a few scenes scattered here and there, and an "oh wait, we need to add a little something about how important these guys were to the war, eh?" quickie footnote seemingly tacked on at the end, then Windtalkers may be the Summer entertainment you're looking for. Believe it or not, that didn't start out being the backhanded compliment it looks like.

Ok, John Woo and Nick Cage; you're forgiven for having unleashed Face/Off on my unsuspecting soul. But if you ever do that again, I'll spank your bad behinds.


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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2002
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

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More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies reviewed week of 6/14/02):
Bams' reviews:
Windtalkers | The Bourne Identity

The Diva's reviews:
Scooby Doo

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