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Windtalkers (2002)

Wind Talkers

Honour was their code

Directed by:

John Woo

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 128 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

War? Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. But that’s never stopped Hollywood’s top directors from wanting to dip their toes into its bloody waters – and now, with ‘Windtalkers’, it’s the turn of perennial hit-and-miss-artist John Woo.

This is billed as the story of how the U.S. military used the Native American language of the Navajo as an uncrackable code in their battles with the Japanese during World War II. So we get Nicolas Cage as the droopy-eyed and half-deaf Marine assigned to protect one of these so-called “windtalkers” – Private Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) – as bullets rain down, grenades get chucked, and blood and snotters splatter in all directions.

The movie hints at the spiritual nature of the Navajo people, but never uses it to its advantage. Racism, too, is one of the issues that threatens to become important to the film but never quite does. It might be a tad cynical to suggest Woo steers us inadvertently towards such areas only to swiftly change direction after realising he’s coming far too close to a bit of character development – but, if the cap fits, etc.

This, Woo’s follow-up to the feature-length shampoo commercial that was ‘Mission: Impossible II’, is little more than an overlong compilation of various war movie clichés. Sure, they’re competently put-together clichés – but they’re still clichés. It all makes for some seriously pointless viewing, as one dragged-out battle sequence merges into the next, with precious little in-between to make us actually care.

The story of the windtalkers is potentially a very interesting one, but here it’s reduced to little more than a gimmick in a cheesy flag-waving attempt at matching the big screen success of the likes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Suffice to say, it doesn’t work.

It's Got: Lots of images of billowing stars and stripes, accompanied by ridiculously-patriotic music.

It Needs: A hearing aid for Mr Cage.

DVD Extras Choice of commentaries from either Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater or bit-part player Roger Willie and real-life Navajo windtalker Albert Smith, a made-for-TV special, actors’ boot camp featurette, on-set diaries, and a stills gallery. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10

Summary

World War II at its most boring.

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