Cheese Goes to War: Windtalkers

Photoshop goes to war…

Windtalkers is a World War II movie directed by action legend John Woo and starring the lovably insane Nicolas Cage. When I learned these bits of information, my first thought was, “Where do I sign up?”
The movie came and went, and got middling reviews. I never got around to seeing it thanks to its poor reception. Finally, 11 years after its 2002 release, I watched this movie on Netflix. And how did it hold up? Eh, not good.
It’s somewhat hard to believe that John Woo actually directed this movie. He is normally very competent behind the camera. His action scenes in movies like The Killer, Hard Boiled, and Face Off were incredible. They managed to have enthralling, well-planned, heart-pumping moments of carnage. It’s impossible to watch one of his older movies, see Chow Yun-Fat flying through the air with a gun in each hand, and not get excited. I figured he would bring all that good stuff to this movie. Unfortunately, he didn’t.

Mission briefing: kill all the bad guys.

The action scenes, which are the part of the movie that should shine, are abysmal. The opening scene, which shows Cage’s platoon getting decimated somewhere in the Pacific front, is laughable at best. The characters walk around in the open, screaming, chewing scenery, grunting, and dying in the most comical ways imaginable. It’s hard to actually put it into words. But, believe me, if you watch that first scene, you can’t not laugh. It’s so fucking cheesy.
The cheese factor only ramps up as the movie goes on. Cage’s character pretty much single-handedly defeats the entire Japanese army. He runs around in open fields, spraying lead from a Thompson sub-machine gun, and killing everything that moves. No one seems to be able to hit him, despite his insistence on not taking cover. I lost track of how many people got killed, but it was a shitload. Too bad the real Marines didn’t have Cage with them, he would have ended the war a hell of a lot sooner.

“And then they said Nicolas Cage was going to be protecting us!”

The rest of the action scenes don’t fare any better. The biggest problem with them, apart from how cheesy they are, is that there is no sense of space or direction. Characters run this way or that. Bad guys pop up out of nowhere. There are no discernable objectives. Basically, the audience has no clue where anybody is in relation to one another. The audience also has no idea what the hell the troops are supposed to be doing at any given time. This is extremely disorienting, and makes the action scenes incomprehensible. For an example of how action scenes of war should be filmed, take a look at Saving Private Ryan. There, you get a good establishment of where the principle players are located, where the objective is, and how the two sides are going to clash. None of that is in Windtalkers. The actions scenes here are discombobulating.
The story of the movie is that Cage is tasked to protect a “Codetalker.” The U.S. military used Navajo language as a basis for code, and used native speakers to transmit the code. This was an ingenious move, since the Navajo language is so obscure to the rest of the world, that nobody was ever able to break the code. And so, Cage has to protect Adam Beach, who plays the Navajo Codetalker. They don’t really have much to do other than exist from the moment the film begins until it ends. There is no real objective other than “stay alive.” They should have sent them on a mission or something. That way, the audience would know the film was building toward something. Instead, it just meanders along while Beach and Cage get into firefights, and Cage kills every Japanese soldier in sight.

This movie was Christian Slater’s big career comeback.

One of the more egregious problems with this movie is that it tries to be about Navajo Codetalkers, but it really ends up being about Nicholas Cage killing bad guys. The two Codetalkers in the film are supporting characters. They should have been front and center, since the movie is ostensibly about them, but they take a back seat to the white guy. At the very least, Beach should have been his equal in terms of plot points, screen time, and character development.
The rest of the movie is rounded out by layer upon layer of cheese. Pretty much every war film stereotype is used. We have guys talking about what they are going to do when they get back from the war. We have guys promising others to give “such and such” to their wife if they don’t make it back. We have guys giving stupid cliche motivational speeches. And, of course, we have white guys who don’t like the Navajo, but by the end of the film come to accept them. Barf.

“Hey, Nic, are we, like, best friends now?”

The only compliment I can give this movie is Cage’s performance. Now, it’s not exactly a good performance. No, he’s hamming it up with the best of them. But he is giving it his all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie where Cage phones it in. He gives 110% every single time. The performances he gives may be borderline terrible (see Season of the Witch as an example), but he always tries his best. And honestly, what’s better than Cage going all-out nutso in a film?
Windtalkers is unbearably bad. One of the cheeiest movies I’ve ever seen. A giant slice of stinky Gouda.
Verdict: Shitty

This is how I felt after the movie was over.

5 Responses to “Cheese Goes to War: Windtalkers”

  1. February 1, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Nothing further to be said, really. This film is a turd stuck to your boot, and you can’t wipe it off.

  2. 3 lokifire
    February 2, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Awww, now I’m sad to know that a John Woo movie I forgot existed is terrible.

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January 2015


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