Windtalkers

2002

Windtalkers

Critics Consensus

The action sequences are expertly staged. Windtalkers, however, sinks under too many clichés and only superficially touches upon the story of the code talkers.

32%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 168

50%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 66,856
User image

Watch it now

Windtalkers Photos

Movie Info

Loosely based on a real-life operation during World War II, this action-adventure from director John Woo stars Nicolas Cage as Joe Enders, a Marine traumatized by the loss of his entire platoon in the Solomon Islands during an ambush he believes was deadlier than necessary due to his indecision. Suffering from eardrum damage in Hawaii, Joe manages to be declared fit for duty once again thanks to a sympathetic nurse (Frances O'Connor), but his new assignment isn't what he expects. Joe is ordered to safeguard a Navajo soldier named Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) because the military has developed a new secret code based on the near-dead Navajo language that is proving unbreakable to the Japanese. Any soldier that speaks Navajo is an immediate asset, including Ben and his pal, Charlie Whitehorse (Roger Willie). Joe's orders are to "baby sit" Ben during the invasion of Saipan, protecting him if possible, but -- if the code-talker's capture becomes imminent -- to kill him before he falls into enemy hands. Meanwhile, Charlie is to be guarded by affable harmonica player Ox Henderson (Christian Slater). Joe reluctantly accepts this new duty as a way to get back into the war, and in the ensuing carnage, his nearly suicidal acts of bravery make him a hero while Ben becomes paralyzed by fear. Determined to live up to Joe's example, Ben musters up his courage, even in the face of racism from a fellow soldier (Noah Emmerich), and ends up rescuing his own protector behind enemy lines by briefly posing as a Japanese soldier. Despite their growing mutual respect, Joe is eventually forced to take an action that threatens to shatter his bond with Ben, as the war's tragic losses strike closer to home for both men. Windtalkers co-stars Peter Stormare, Jason Isaacs, and Mark Ruffalo.

Cast

Nicolas Cage
as Joe Enders
Adam Beach
as Ben Yahzee
Peter Stormare
as Hjelmstad
Christian Slater
as Ox Henderson
Roger Willie
as Charlie Whitehorse
Jason Isaacs
as Maj. Mellitz
Billy Morts
as Fortino
Cameron Thor
as Mertens
Kevin Cooney
as Ear Doctor
Holmes Osborne
as Col. Hollings
Scott Atkinson
as Camp Tarawa Staff Sergeant
Albert Smith
as Navajo Man
James Dever
as Field Hospital Colonel
Vincent Whipple
as Navajo Instructor
Jim Morse
as Marine Recruit
Chris Devlin
as Sgt. Code Instructor
Jeff Davis
as Tech Sgt.
Glen Begay
as Radio Codetalker
Ross Lasi Tanoai
as Eddie the Bartender
Brian Kasai
as Japanese Intelligence Officer
Hiroshi 'Rosh' Mori
as Japanese Radio Operator
John Takeshi Ichikawa
as Japanese Bunker Commander
Christopher T. Yamamoto
as Japanese Bunker Gunner
Marc McClellan
as Marine Artillery Commander
Steve Tanizaki
as Japanese Artillery Commander
Malcolm Dohl
as Battleship Codetalker
Darrel Guilbeau
as Battleship Petty Officer
Aaron Yamagata
as Tanapag Boy
Victoria Chen
as Tanapag Mother
Jon Michael Souza
as N.C.O. Officer
Carissa Jung
as Tanapag Girl
Wataru Yoshida
as Japanese Artillery
Junya Oishi
as Japanese Artillery Sighter
Jiro Koga
as Japanese Artillery Gunner
Tina Leialoha Gube
as Hula Dancer
Alewa T. Olotoa
as Hula Dancer
Llima Pumphrey
as Hula Dancer
Lena Savaiinaea
as Hula Dancer
Kaliko Scott
as Hula Dancer
View All

News & Interviews for Windtalkers

Critic Reviews for Windtalkers

All Critics (168) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (54) | Rotten (114)

  • The energy and conviction of the action sequences don't quite compensate for Windtalkers' emotional cliches and historical heedlessness.

    Sep 19, 2008 | Full Review…
  • A powerful premise turned into a stubbornly flat, derivative war movie.

    Sep 19, 2008

    Robert Koehler

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • The screenwriters struggle to integrate the coded transmissions with the action, and the flamboyant set piece battles feel like so much empty rhetoric.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The history is fascinating; the action is dazzling. They just don't work in concert.

    Nov 6, 2002 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • A merely competent action war pic, boasting neither Woo's trademark balletic violent set-pieces nor any convincing insight into the tensions between the native Americans and their Anglo-Saxon commanders in the Marine Corps.

    Oct 2, 2002 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • In the wake of Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers, you are likely to be as heartily sick of mayhem as Cage's war-weary marine.

    Aug 20, 2002 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Neil Smith

    BBC.com
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Windtalkers

  • Jun 30, 2014
    "I talk to the wind; my words are all carried away!" You know what, this is kind of a silly title, befitting a kind of silly war drama, and sure enough, this film is so silly that it stars Nicolas Cage. Well, maybe the film itself isn't terribly bonkers, but as crazy as Cage is, I'm sure he would talk to the wind for help, and quite frankly, I can understand, because considering that this is a John Woo film, some doves might actually come and help me. For those of you who think that doves helping soldiers in combat is totally ridiculous, you clearly weren't paying attention when I said that this is a John Woo film, because it wouldn't be the craziest thing to happen in one of his films. Oh, well, he is trying to take a project like this a little more seriously, not because it deals with subject matter as serious as war, but because he wants to use this as a reminder of the differences between the Chinese and Japanese. Well, he must have gone a little overboard at some point, because violence in this film had to be trimmed down in order to avoid an NC-17 rating, which is good, because this film was losing enough money at the box office. Well, the news would be better if the film was better, because even though it is decent, it gets carried away with more than just the action. Running about two hours and a quarter, or, in the case of the director's cut that no one pays attention to, a touch over two-and-a-half hours (Come on, people, it's not like the director's cut of "Pearl Harbor", where they put in a couple more seconds of violence; give John Woo's effort a little attention), the film boasts a healthy runtime, with which it gets a little carried away at times, even within a narrative concept that gets rather uneven with its shifting between various subplots and layers. The film simply gets carried away with its characterization, and yet, in a way, it's superficial with that characterization, drawing thin types who are sold by performances of decidedly greater inspiration, but pretty stereotypical and lacking in a dramatic narrative which is conceptually so rich. Characterization is not the only major dramatic factor which is handled superficially here, as the plot itself is pretty heavily played by melodramatics, contrived conflicts and story elements which John Woo bludgeons you with through a sentimental tone that ranges from reasonably effective to cloying. Histrionic, sentimental and even with a hint of fall-flat fluff, this film commits a great sin for war dramas by devolving to cheesiness, a reflection of overambitious bloating in storytelling which is, of course, exacerbated by all of the focal and pacing inconsistencies, and might be easier to forgive if this film didn't laze out in a certain, major area. There are aspects in this film which could have perhaps been genuinely refreshing, but in the end, when the plot itself doesn't follow formula, John Rice's and Joe Batteer's script lazes out with its dialogue and set pieces, almost as trite, but at least decidedly as profoundly clichéd, joining all of the aforementioned plotting tropes in establishing a nearly frustrating predictability. Now, whether it be because I'm a sucker for war dramas or whatever, I don't find that the film sputters out too far shy of rewarding, but, make no mistake, there is a betrayal of potential here, ironically through ambition, whose bloating meets a certain laziness in storytelling and ultimately drives the final product back as kind of underwhelming. Still, like I said, I don't find that the film is quite as great a misfire as many are saying, as it is plenty dramatically adequate, and stylistically proficient. On a high following "Enemy at the Gates" upon working with this, his second modern war film, the great James Horner brings his trademark fusion of whimsy and modern classical intensity into a refreshing context with this score, even though, by its own right, it's hardly anything new, thus, it's easier to appreciate a musical artistry that is abused by sentimentality, but generally beautiful and sometimes effective in complimenting depths about as much as decent art direction by Kevin Ishioka which provide some memorable visuals, and help in drawing you into the war environment. The immersion value of the battlefield at least kicks in when the action kicks in, because even though subtlety issues and the superficiality of characterization limit the depths to the violence, resulting in a sense of gratuitousness to many disturbing visuals, one can understand why the action is the only receiving praise, as its remarkable technicality and tight staging tensely highlights John Woo's directorial abilities. Outside of the action, Woo sometimes goes so far as to fall flat, boasting an overt ambition which begets tonal superficiality and a lack of attention towards mending certain other storytelling hiccups, until the ambition finds genuine inspiration, of which there is only so much, but, in my opinion, enough to draw tension and deliver on a bit of emotional resonance, or at least keep pacing brisk. If nothing else can be said about this film, although its script drags its feet, Woo's directorial touches are plenty entertaining, enough to get you by until dramatic highlights are hit, bringing glimpses into a more realized interpretation of worthy subject matter. Although we're looking at trite and often misguided storytelling belonging to an underwhelming drama, this story seems to belong to a much more compelling pseudo-epic of a war opus, and although that largely leaves you to soak in how much potential is lost, it establishes a solid deal of immediate intrigue which Woo's performance often secures, and which the other performances consistently secure, to a certain extent, that is. Material is lacking for performers working with surprisingly superficial characters, and yet, if nothing else is getting the shaft among critics, it is the performances, if not the chemistry which I find to be solid across the board, particularly within a charismatic Adam Beach who sells a man struggling to hold onto his humanity and protect his new band of brothers more effectively than the writing, as well as within Nicolas Cage, who is playing Nicolas Cage, but in one of his better interpretations, complete with a charisma and emotional intensity which sell the guilt, passion and overall intense mindset of a soldier seeking, not simply to protect his country and brethren, but redeem himself for his mistakes. There's an almost unfittingly great deal of humanity within most all key performances, and were there more inspiration to storytelling, the film would have thoroughly rewarded, yet at things stand, in my opinion, the final product comes to the brink of rewarding on the back of value amidst flatness. When the words are all carried away (Great, now I've got King Crimson stuck in my head), the film is left too overdrawn to keep consistent with focus, too superficial in its characterization and dramatics to keep consistent with resonance, and too generic for you to deny it all, thus, the final product falls short, but not as far short as many are saying, for James Horner's solid score, Kevin Ishioka's immersive art direction, John Woo's gripping action and moving dramatic highlights, and a cast full of underappreciated performances - particularly by Adam Beach and Nicolas Cage - carry enough inspiration to make "Windtalkers" a thoroughly entertaining and sometimes genuinely effective, if ultimately overblown war drama. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • May 14, 2013
    An insult to Native Americans. In this film, you may find yourself rooting for the Imperial forces of Japan to kill Nicholas Cage and put an end to our suffering.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 14, 2012
    John Woo's World War II epic, Windtalkers, is a dour and disjoined action film. The story follows a traumatized marine who is assigned to protect a Navajo code talker in the Pacific Theater. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Adam Beach, Peter Stormare, and Christian Slater, but the acting is mediocre at best. Cage particularly feels out of place, as he plays an antihero. And stereotypes abound throughout the film, giving an artificial tone to a lot of scenes. Still, the action is pretty good and there are some nice character moments. Though it's flawed, Windtalkers presents an interesting perspective on island warfare.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 08, 2012
    more depth into the actual windtalkers story would of been very welcomed. Nicolas Cage is well cast and delivers a flawed character who is given the chance of redemption. John Woo is a great hand at the action scenes but the overall story is missing and thats why it fails in my eyes.
    Brendan N Super Reviewer

Windtalkers Quotes

News & Features