Windtalkers (2002) – movie review

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Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Peter Stormare, Noah Emmerich, Mark Ruffalo

Director: John Woo

WINDTALKERS is based on the real life Navajo codetalkers used by the US military during the Second World War. The Navajo code is the only code used by the US in the Pacific that was not broken by the Japanese and so was an invaluable asset used in winning that part of the war.

Nicolas Cage stars as marine Joe Enders, a soldier who has already proved his willingness to follow orders. He is assigned to protect a new Navajo recruit Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) one of the new codetalkers to ensure he does not fall into enemy hands and reveal the code.

Fellow marine Ox Anderson (Christian Slater) is also assigned to protect a codetalker Charlie Whitehorse (Roger Willie).

All these men, experienced marines and the new recruits (the codetalkers), continually prove their commitment and willingness to fight for their country throughout the film which is set for the most part against the backdrop of the Battle of Saipen. The underlying theme however is the secret order given to the codetalkers’ protectors that they should protect the code – not the codetalkers – at all costs. In other words should a codetalker be about to fall into enemy hands they must kill the codetalker.

WINDTALKERS is a very powerful movie excellently directed by John Woo in his usual visually hard-hitting style. Whilst all the actors really are very good I was amazed to learn that one of the two codetalkers featured, Charlie Whitehorse played by Roger Willie, is a first time actor who only auditioned for the part when prompted by his two nephews whom he accompanied to the casting call. I would never have even guessed that he was anything other than an experienced actor.

Overall this is an excellent movie that as well as telling a powerful story, brings the story of the Navajo codetalkers to the world’s attention for the first time as their real story was only declassified in 1968 and it took until July 26, 2001 for the original 29 marine codetalkers who developed the code to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W Bush.

5 out of 6 stars