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Windtalkers movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Woo
Produced by John Woo
Terence Chang
Tracie Graham-Rice
Alison Rosenzweig
Written by John Rice
Joe Batteer
Starring Nicolas Cage
Adam Beach
Peter Stormare
Noah Emmerich
Mark Ruffalo
Christian Slater
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Jeffrey L. Kimball
Edited by Jeff Gullo
Steven Kemper
Tom Rolf
Distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer
20th Century Fox (International)
Release dates
  • June 14, 2002 (2002-06-14)
Running time
134 minutes[citation needed]
Country United States
Hong Kong
Language English
Budget $115 million[1]
Box office $77,628,265[1]

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.


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 almost deaf from a Japanese grenade explosion. Enders' new assignment is to protect Navajo code talker Pvt. Ben Yazzie, 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 (notoriously difficult to learn or to understand); and 2) a code embedded in the language, meaning that even native speakers would be confused by it. Supposedly, this code was close to unbreakable, but so difficult only a few people could actually learn it.

Yazzie 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 since captured Navajos are always tortured to death the code cannot fall into enemy hands, implying that they are to kill their code talkers if capture is imminent. The invasion of Saipan is Yazzie and Whitehorse's first combat experience. After the beachhead is secured in vicious fighting, the Marines come under friendly fire from American artillery. Yazzie'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, Yazzie 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 Yazzie is forced to kill for the first time, slaying a Japanese radioman before he can redirect American artillery fire onto the Japanese position.

Yazzie 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, Anderson is killed 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 primes a grenade as Whitehorse nods to him, and the ensuing explosion kills both Whitehorse and the Japanese captors. Yazzie returns to the front-line and soon learns that Enders killed Whitehorse. Outraged, Yazzie aims his weapon at Enders and attempts to kill him, but cannot bring himself to do it.

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, Yazzie charges the Japanese line fearlessly, and in so doing, fumbles the radio needed to call in bombardments. In the ensuing battle, Yazzie and Enders are both shot as they retrieve the radio and call in an airstrike on the artillery. Enders manages to carry Yazzie to safety after taking a shot in the chest. Friendly planes arrive and the Japanese position is successfully destroyed, but Enders is mortally wounded. With his last breath, Enders confesses that he hated having to kill Whitehorse and that his mission was to protect the code above all else.

Back in the U.S., Yazzie, his wife, and his son sit atop Point Mesa in Monument Valley, Arizona, and perform the Navajo ritual of paying respects to the man who saved his life. In the epilogue, the film explains that the Navajo code was critical to America's success against Japan in the war, and that during the entire war, the code was never broken.



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.[2]


Windtalkers received negative reviews from critics; it currently holds a 32% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, based on 167 reviews.[3] 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".[4]

The film was criticized for featuring the Navajo characters only in supporting roles; they were not the primary focus of the film.[5] The film was ranked number four on'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. [6]

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.[1]

Awards and nominations[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]


  1. ^ a b c "Windtalkers". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Windtalkers". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 14, 2002). "Windtalkers". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  5. ^ Thom, Fred. "Windtalkers". Plume Noire. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  6. ^

External links[edit]