Windtalkers (1)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


I felt I had to see Windtalkers because I’ve always liked World War II movies, from the best, From Here to Eternity and The Caine Mutiny, to John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima and Flying Leathernecks, to Battleground and A Walk in the Sun.  I even liked Battle Cry despite Tab Hunter and Aldo Ray. 

So I went to see Windtalkers.  I didn’t expect a comedy.  Nicolas Cage plays the John Wayne role.  Boy, this guy was a marine corps all by himself.  He must have killed half of the Japs who died in the Pacific in this one movie!  What a guy!  

The director, John Woo, never could figure out what kind of gun Cage should be using.  So in one scene he’s using a carbine.  In the next scene he’s got a sub machine gun.  Then he’s using a .45 handgun.  And what a shot!  Anyone who’s ever shot a .45 knows that you can’t hit the broad side of a barn with it unless you’re within five feet. The kick alone is enough to break your arm. But Cage never misses!  It seems as if every time he fires his .45, three Japs die, none of whom are within 50 feet of him.  Man, he pulls that trigger and Japs fly all over everywhere! 

He and his windtalker Navajo buddy, played by Adam Beach, walk into the Jap front lines and the two of them kill half a division even though the only weapon Cage has is his trusty .45.  Tojo must have sent only the stupidest Japs to Saipan.  

And the noise!  This is one of the loudest movies you’ll ever see; nothing but guns shooting and bullets flying.  But whenever Cage wants to have a talk with his buddy, Beach, all the sounds of the war cease.  There it is, World War II being fought all around them, and they’re having their little heart to heart in the middle of the battle field and the only thing you can hear is the wind whistling as they speak to each other. 

Director Woo never comes to grips with what function these “windtalkers,” Navajos whose language was used as a code, performed and why they were so important.  The only thing Woo used them for in this movie is to radio coordinates of locations of Japs to big guns behind the lines to blast the Japs to smithereens.  Why did they need some indecipherable code to transmit this information, which is hardly top-secret?  If the Japs intercepted the transmission, what were they going to do?  Go to their Colonel and say, “Colonel, they’ve found our coordinates!  We’ve got to move these three ton guns that it took us four months to erect somewhere else in the next five minutes or we’ll be blown to smithereens!”  Give me a break. Apparently windtalkers were just the McGuffin (which is what Hitchcock called the thing that was generally some inanimate object that was going to make someone a fortune or change the world as we know it, that provided the raison d’etre for the plot of the movie, like the statue of the maltese falcon in the movie of the same name).  Windtalkers had to perform some function more useful than what Woo concocted if they were that important.  Woo couldn’t have cared less that their presence in the movie made sense. 

Pushing the implausible button, the Windtalker (Beach) got to a radio during a fierce firefight and radioed to the Navy that the Navy was bombarding US Marines, not Japs.  Luckily, a guy as handy with big guns as Cage is with the .45 must have been running the Navy because without bracketing or information from forward observers or anything else that would have been needed in a real war, they immediately started blasting the location of the Japs. Precisely!  From maybe 30 miles away.  Sight unseen! In fact, whenever any marine shot at a Jap, he hit him.  Cage’s marines even destroyed a Jap tank by throwing two grenades at it!  No marine ever missed a Jap if he pulled the trigger. 

I don’t know what Director Woo did for a living before he found directing movies to be so easy, but it sure didn’t expose him to the way wars are fought.  This movie is sheer fantasy.  So-called sophisticates take glee in putting down WWII movies that were made before our enlightened times of hand-held cameras and limbs blown off in front of your very eyes.  But Sands of Iwo Jima and Battleground weren’t nearly as unrealistic as Windtalkers. 

If you’re among the legions of people who have successfully avoided this movie, count your blessings.  It’s an interminable two hours and fifteen minutes that would be better spent investing in Worldcom without help from Martha Stewart. 

The End 

PS.  For those of you who are politically correct, I use the term “Jap” to describe the people who started and fought WWII, who attacked Pearl Harbor with no warning, who conducted the Bataan Death March, who abused hundreds of thousands of “comfort women”, who raped Nanking, who killed 2/3 of the POWs in the Pacific (vs. only 4% who died in Europe).  The people who presently occupy Japan are Japanese.