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What's the story?
WINDTALKERS begins as Sgt. Enders (Nicolas Cage) is caught in the midst of battle. He is injured and witnessing the deaths of his friends is slowly driving him mad. His hearing loss could get him sent home, but he stays to keep fighting. He and Sgt. "Ox" Henderson (Christian Slater) are assigned to protect newly enlisted Navajo fighters Pvt. Ben Yahzee and Pvt. Charlie Whitehorse, (played superbly by Adam Beach and Roger Willie, respectively) whose abilities with the Navajo code are essential in the war. Enders is noticeably disgruntled at his new duties, but through a series of events he gains a mutual respect for the men he must protect. And a tough, bigoted soldier (Noah Emmerich) learns that the Navajos are actually good people when one of them saves his life.
Is it any good?
Unfortunately, John Woo's film focuses too much on the complicated, half-crazed Sergeant Enders rather than the Navajos recruited as Marines to use their language as military code. The movie does a disservice to the men it is intended to honor by perpetuating their marginalization and making the much less interesting Nicolas Cage character the main focus of the story. The events are often predictable, and the dialogue is not very memorable with lines from the Navajos like "I've never seen so many white men!"
Windtalkers follows suit of most post-Saving Private Ryan war films and tries to make its point by dousing us with relentless violence. On the plus side, Cage, Slater, and a solid supporting cast of character actors are all dependably good, and it's interesting to see John Woo's distinctive action style put into a war film. The culture clashes are never boring, and scenes where a peace pipe ritual is carried out on a cigarette and Henderson duets on a harmonica with Whitehorse's wooden flute are handled with sensitivity.
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