Windtalkers (2002)

(In theaters, June 2002) It’s no secret that I generally worship John Woo and his entire oeuvre, but even I can see when something is clearly not working. In the case of Windtalkers, the Woo-fan in me found plenty of things to like: mayhem-packed war scenes filled with spectacular explosions, intricate choreographies and impeccable cinematography. Alas, the budding Woo-doubter took pleasure in pointing out the awful script and the inappropriate nature of Woo’s direction in this case. Whereas the post Saving Private Ryan films have accustomed us to a more realistic view of war, Windtalkers is a throwback to the gung-ho kill-all-Japs attitude of the 50s John Wayne war epics. Protagonist Nicolas Cage mows’em down with glee and soldiers are repeatedly sent flying by gigantic gasoline-fuelled explosions. It’s all so very impressive, but hardly realistic. That’s not even talking about the ludicrous dialogue, the awfully explicit racist subplot needlessly crowding out a more subtle racial message and some terrible “bonding” scenes we’ve seen countless times before. Christian Slater’s happy-puppy role is a joy to watch and the action scenes are impressive in their own fashion, but otherwise Windtalkers is painful to watch, a depressingly unrealistic film about a subject that deserved so much better. Woo fans, take note.

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