There's nothing like a remake to generate strong box office results. In
WINDTALKERS, director John Woo (FACE/OFF) has apparently remade TO HELL AND BACK
with Nicolas Cage taking on the Audie Murphy role. The World War II film is a
rousing saga in which Cage, as Sergeant Joe Enders, single-handedly kills
hundreds of enemy soldiers.
At a distance of over a hundred yards and using just a pistol, Enders is able to
kill man after man without wasting a single bullet. Although he is a marksman
with Olympic shooting skills, he is just one of many amazing American soldiers
in the battle. Rarely missing -- or even getting their hair messed up -- our
soldiers take out at least a dozen Japanese soldiers each. The Japanese, on the
other hand, aren't near as good as sharpshooters. Filled with constant
explosions and flying bodies, the movie produces an adrenaline rush much like a
hard-fought video game in which you keep winning in the end.
Oh yeah, there's also a subplot about Navajo "code talkers," which is nominally
the main theme of the story. This original part of the picture could have been
fascinating. In a strong and touching performance, Adam Beach plays Private Ben
Yahzee, the Navajo code talker whom Enders has been assigned to watch over and
to kill if Yahzee is ever about to be captured by the enemy. Like the much
better ENIGMA, the heart of WINDTALKERS is supposed to be about coded signals.
In World War II we actually used Navajos to speak coded messages on the
battlefield since their language sounds were nearly unintelligible to the
Japanese code breakers.
Enders, who bears emotional and physical scars from a previous battle, has a
single assignment of guarding Yahzee. Generally ignoring his orders, Enders
spends most of the movie fighting a one-man war, hoping that Yahzee will tag
Noah Emmerich plays Corporal Charles 'Chick' Rogers, a southern racist who
verbally and physically harasses the Navajos. The clichéd script, of course,
features a scene in which his life is miraculously saved by one of Navajo he has
Randall Wallace's WE WERE SOLDIERS told a powerful and convincing story of men
at war. In contrast, John Woo's WINDTALKERS, while it provides visceral
satisfaction, is basically one long missed opportunity, as it eschews story in
favor of pyrotechnics and eschews Navajos in favor of star power. This should
have been the Navajos' picture, not Cage's.
WINDTALKERS runs way too long at 2:14. It is rated R for "pervasive graphic war
violence, and for language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes