There are two things that a person can do in the face of evil; overcome it, or join it. John Woo's latest epic, Windtalkers brings to the screen a story that's inspired by true events where humanity faces such a challenge. The movie captures the horrors of humanity in the face of war. Make no mistake, war wears a human face. It's just not humane.
During World War II, encrypted communication was a strategic key in the U.S. struggle to beat the Japanese. The United States used the Navajo Code Talkers, or "windtalkers" and their language since it provided the most secure method of communication in their operations in the Pacific. Two U.S. Marines (Nicolas Cage, Christian Slater) are assigned to protect the Navajo Marines. More so, they are assigned to "protect the code at all costs." This means that if they are to face possible capture on Japanese soil, the two U.S. Marines must kill their windtalkers.
Straight away limbs, feet, hands and heads are chopped off and blown apart mercilessly right in front of your very eyes. You also see Nicolas Cage shouting in agony due to the death of his friend, while bullets mysteriously stop. The atmosphere of the fighting sequences in the film is established greatly through sound. If this film deserves an Oscar in one department, that's sound. The sound creates a sensation of tremendous realism. The bullets seem to whizz past you at rapid speeds and at times you can't help but wonder if they hit the person sitting behind you. Then you realize that you're the one who's been hit. Or so the sound suggests.
Windtalkers portrays the horrors of the Pacific battles vividly and no side seems right as long as they have a gun in their hand. The movie is filled of disturbing scenes of mankind at its worst. T.S. Elliot's "The Hollow Man" is about men who believe in nothing. The Marines appear at a position of reasonable comparison with such hollow men. Often they do not know what they believe in, so they believe in nothing. At many times, not even life.
Such men are represented by fairly talented cast members. Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater do a very decent job. This is not the best performance of their career, but nevertheless a solid one. They both capture the essence of the two characters, although the later one lacks character development in the script, thus not allowing for Slater's expansion. Frances O'Connor is a very minor supporting character, but even with the little screen time that she has, it's evident that she is in possession of amazing range. Canadian born Adam Beach breaks through in what most likely accounts for his largest leading role. He breaths of freshness, comfort and chrisma.
The real problems with the film start with plausibility. Nicolas Cage kills seemingly hundreds of Japanese at times with his gun, bullets fly above for 2 hours and 15 minutes without hitting the main actors and soldiers reflect in the middle of a fire fight. It's also difficult to see why Cage's character has a sudden shift in outlook. The emotional journey of most of the other characters is fairly untold as well. The problems continue with predictable and cheesy moments, ideas that have been borrowed from previous resources, and a few pretentious moments.
As it stands, Windtalkers consists of great visuals and sound effects, good direction, a heart and an interesting story told by a cast of equal velour. The action, choreography, creativity and story truly allow you to feel the brutality of the war. It's unfortunate that all the fallibilities along the way detract from what could have been a great movie in a genre that's not so wonderful.
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