Windtalkers

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Windtalkers
Windtalkers movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Woo
Produced by
Written by
  • Joe Batteer
  • John Rice
Starring
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Jeffrey L. Kimball
Edited by
  • Jeff Gullo
  • Steven Kemper
  • Tom Rolf
Production
company
Distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Release dates
  • June 14, 2002 (2002-06-14)
Running time
134 minutes[1]
Country
  • United States
  • Hong Kong
Language English
Budget $115 million[2]
Box office $77.6 million[2]

Windtalkers is a 2002 American war film directed and produced by John Woo, and starring Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach. The film was released in the United States on June 14, 2002.

Plot[edit]

During World War II, USMC Cpl. Joseph F. 'Joe' Enders rallies himself to return to active duty with the aid of his pharmacist, Rita, after previously surviving a gruesome battle on the Solomon Islands against the Imperial Japanese Army that killed his entire squad and left him with a scar on his neck and almost deaf in his left ear from a Japanese grenade explosion. Enders' new assignment is to protect Navajo code talker Pvt. Ben Yahzee, promoting Enders to Sergeant. Sgt. Pete 'Ox' Anderson also receives a parallel assignment protecting Navajo code talker Pvt. Charlie Whitehorse. The Navajo code, as it was known, was a code based on two parts: 1) the Navajo language and 2) a code embedded in the language, meaning that even native speakers would be confused by it, referring to a tank as a turtle, for example. Supposedly, this code was close to unbreakable, but so difficult only a few people could actually learn it.

Yahzee and Whitehorse, lifelong friends from the same Navajo tribe, are trained to send and receive coded messages that direct battleship bombardments of Japanese entrenched positions. Enders and Anderson are told that, because evidence shows captured Navajos are always tortured to death to get the code, it cannot fall into enemy hands, implying that they are to kill their code talkers if capture is imminent. As Enders and Anderson meet Yahzee and Whitehorse, it becomes apparent that the two experience Marines are less than happy to be babysitting their Navajo codetalkers. The Navajos must also endure insults about their heritage and a beating by the racist Private Chick. But during their missions, Anderson and Whitehorse discover a mutual love of music, Whitehorse with his flute and Anderson with his harmonica. As their practicing becomes more and more melodic, Anderson intones that, despite being in a battlefield, this music could turn into something. They become not just soldiers, but friends.

The invasion of Saipan is Yahzee's and Whitehorse's first combat experience. After the beachhead is secured in vicious fighting, the Marines come under friendly fire from American artillery. Yahzee's radio is destroyed and the convoy is unable to call off the bombardment. Without the ability to communicate and American artillery shells raining down on them, Yahzee disguises himself as an Imperial Japanese soldier and slips behind enemy lines taking Enders as his prisoner of war in search of a radio. Enders eliminates several Japanese soldiers and Yahzee is forced to kill for the first time, slaying a Japanese radioman before he can redirect American artillery fire onto the Japanese position. For their bravery, Enders is awarded a Silver Star by the commanding officer, with Yahzee's role almost ignored until Enders points him out. Enders sees Santorini praying by Nellie's hastily dug grave and, knowing he was alive because of Nellie's actions, gives the medal to Santorini with instructions to send it to Nellie's wife. Later, after a night of sake drinking, Yahzee performs Navajo rituals over the pass-out Enders to protect him with the spirits. Still later, Enders and Yahzee discover that they have mutual elements in their backgrounds. With those situations alarming Enders because, despite his orders he cannot bring himself to imagine killing Yahzee, he demands to be relieved from his unit. He is denied.

Yahzee is sent back to headquarters and that night the Marines camp in a village, Tanapag, thought to be secured. Later the next morning, Japanese soldiers attack, and during the intense fighting, Whitehorse saves the life of Chick, the same racist who beat Yahzee for being Navajo. Anderson, together with Whitehorse under cover, realizes Whitehorse is in danger of being captured and presses his pistol against the Navajo's chest as Whitehorse watches horrified, asking his friend why, but Anderson cannot bring himself to pull the trigger on the man he has grown closest to. Turning to meet the enemy, Anderson is beheaded by a samurai sword and Whitehorse is about to be captured by the Japanese. Enders sees Whitehorse being beaten and dragged away by the Japanese and tries to shoot the captors with his sidearm, but it has run out of ammo. Enders then primes a grenade and hesitates, because he wants to kill the Japanese and save Whitehorse, but Whitehorse, realizing the Japanese will doom him to pain and death, and possibly revealing the code against his will, vehemently nods to Enders, who grimly releases the lever and throws the primed grenade at Whitehorse's feet. The ensuing explosion kills both Whitehorse and the Japanese captors.

Yahzee returns to Tanapag and, seeing Whitehorse's body, screams at Enders that the village was thought to be secured, and to explain what happened. Enders, exhausted, mutters that he killed Whitehorse, but does not reveal that Whitehorse himself was willing to die to protect the code. Outraged, Yahzee aims his weapon at Enders but, like Anderson confronting Whitehorse, cannot bring himself to kill him. Enders confesses that he hated having to kill Whitehorse and that, like Anderson, his mission was to protect the code above all else.

Soon after, the Marines are mobilized on another mission. But they are yet again ambushed, this time near a deadly minefield. Barely able to fight their way out of the kill zone and take cover on an old battle-torn ridge, the Marines see Japanese artillery fire coming on top of the same ridge that is decimating advancing American troops below their position. Still enraged over the death of Whitehorse, Yahzee charges the Japanese line fearlessly, and in so doing, fumbles the radio needed to call in the coordinates for an effective bombardment. In the ensuing battle, Yahzee and Enders are both shot as they retrieve the radio and call in a massive airstrike on the Japanese artillery. However, apparently surrounded and knowing the Japanese will capture and torture him for the code as they almost did with Whitehorse, Yahzee entreats Enders to kill him. Enders, grimly determined that no one else will die that day, manages to carry Yahzee to safety after taking a shot in the chest. Friendly planes arrive and the Japanese position is successfully destroyed, but Enders, as a momentary gleeful Yahzee discovers, is mortally wounded. With his last breaths, Enders reverts to the religious upbringing he earlier claimed he had abandoned, and recites the last rites as he expires. Yahzee and the other Marines are stunned that, at last, this seemingly indestructible combatant is no more.

Returning to the U.S., Yahzee, his wife, and his young son George Washington Yahzee, sit atop Point Mesa in Monument Valley, Arizona, and, wearing the sacred necklaces and other Navajo ceremonial dress, performs the Navajo ritual of paying respects to the man who saved his life. He tells his son that Enders was a fierce warrior and Marine and, that if his son ever tells a story about Enders, to simply say that he was Yahzee's friend. He then cleans Enders' dog tags in holy water, reaffirming his own religious doctrine, lifts them to the sky, and chants in ritual, sending Enders' spirit reverting to the Earth as the vast palisades surround and watch over them.

An ensuing epilogue explains that the Navajo code was crucial to America's success against Japan across the Pacific and that, during the entire war, the code was never broken.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Filming locations on Hawaii included Kualoa Ranch, the location where Lost and Jurassic Park were shot. To portray the Marines in the film the producers recruited extras that were volunteers from Schofield Barracks Army Base, Hickam Air Force Base, Pearl Harbor Naval Station, and Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station. Some of the actual Marines from 4th Force Recon Company were used in the film portraying their actual job. Some violence was trimmed in order to avoid an NC-17 rating. This violence trim was restored for the Director's cut released on DVD.

For the F6F Hellcat fighters that appear in the beach-landing scenes on Saipan, the producers used computer-generated versions.[3]

Release[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film was a box office bomb, grossing only just under $41 million at the US box-office and a combined $77.6 million worldwide.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Windtalkers received negative reviews from critics; it currently holds a 32% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, based on 167 reviews.[4] Roger Ebert gave the film two stars, remarking that "the filmmakers have buried it beneath battlefield cliches, while centering the story on a white character played by Nicolas Cage".[5]

The film was criticized for featuring the Navajo characters only in supporting roles; they were not the primary focus of the film.[6] The film was ranked number four on Careeraftermilitary.com's "10 Most Inaccurate Military Movies Ever Made," which also included The Patriot, The Hurt Locker, U-571, The Green Berets, Pearl Harbor, Battle of the Bulge, Red Tails, Enemy at the Gates and Flyboys on its list of falsified war movie productions. [7]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Winner/Nominee Category Result
2003 Harry Award Appreciation of History Nominated
World Stunt Awards Brett A. Jones Best Fire Stunt Won
Al Goto & David Wald Best Fire Stunt Nominated
Spencer Sano Best High Work Nominated

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "WINDTALKERS (15)". British Board of Film Classification. May 3, 2002. Retrieved July 19, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Windtalkers". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "Windtalkers". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 14, 2002). "Windtalkers". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  6. ^ Thom, Fred. "Windtalkers". Plume Noire. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  7. ^ http://www.careeraftermilitary.com/10-most-inaccurate-military-movies-ever-made/

External links[edit]