Review by Ross Anthony

Grainy expansive vistas of the Four Corners (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah) region span across the screen as a handful of Navajo men say goodbye to their families. The score echoing those of westerns shot 50 years ago; the mood pleasant proud, innocent. Cut to a Windtalkersbutterfly fluttering over a peaceful stream, as the camera slowly drifts right we see a thick reddish substance floating on the surface of the water, then a dead body, a soldier breaches the foreground and a gun shot pierces our ears - we're at the war on the Solomon Islands. It's an unsettlingly shocking splice that works and the first shift in tone in a film that toggles many more times between the peaceful touchy-feely and the grotesquely violent.

But the awkward juxtaposition of 1950's film lore, score, stances, direction, and schmaltzy impossible heroism against the modern movie blood splattering gore feels somewhat irresponsible. Yes, the action sequences are exciting fast-paced and unrelenting and the explosions huge; but to superimpose on this backdrop of hyper-realism a GI Joe that can stand upright in a valley surrounded by trained, well-armed, enemy soldiers and shoot them dead one by one with his pistol subtracts from the honesty of the production.

Though titled "Windtalkers" after the Navajo that provided the US with a simply unbreakable code-language that substantially helped the US win W.W.II, this film is really about the inner conflict of GI Joe (Cage). Feeling responsible for the deaths of men under him, he accepts a mission to protect a Navajo Windtalker (Adam Beach) and the code itself. The charge of which forces him to choose between being a good Marine and being a good friend.

The picture is at its best when telling the Windtalker story and playing the personalities of the American soldiers and their interesting relationships both warm and abrasive. Despite Cage's earlier overacting and hard-to-believe unscathedness and some general schmaltzy indulgences, the film has a heart. Actually, since the role calls for a lot of brooding, I'd have cast Ethan Hawke. The underappreciated Christian Slater (as the other code-protector) performs marvelously, as does Beach and the others. That said, the sleeping drunk Joe scene is put together splendidly. And the film will hold your interest so let's call it a weak B+.

Btw, here's an interesting quote from Cage speaking on the atrocity of war in film, "I think John Woo is painting a picture that would scare the hell out of anybody from wanting to make that happen again, to have human lives treated in that way."

  • Windtalkers. Copyright © 2002. Rated R.
  • Starring Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Peter Stormare, Noah Emmerich, Mark Ruffalo, Brian Van Holt, Roger Willie, Frances O'Connor, Christian Slater.
  • Directed by John Woo.
  • Screenplay by John Rice & Joe Batteer.
  • Produced by John Woo, Terence Chang, Tracie Graham, Alison Rosenzweig at MGM.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

chili4 special olympians
power5 ra hforh radiop

Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:50:07 PDT