Joe Enders, Nicolas Cage, is the only survivor of his unit, which was wiped out fighting Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands. After being nursed back to health by Nurse Rita, Frances O’Connor, Joe is assigned as ‘protector’ to Ben Yahzee, Adam Beach, a Navajo who, along with others of his tribe, including his friend, Charlie, Roger Willie, have been trained to relay vital front-line messages in a special code based on their own language. So vital are these ‘windtalkers’ to the American army that their ‘protectors’ are told to kill them rather than allow them to be captured by the enemy. The men join troops landed on the Japanese occupied island of Saipan, and a series of bloody battles begin. There’s a fascinating story to be told here, but the cliched screenplay by John Rice and Joe Batteer doesn’t do it justice. Instead of a serious examination of the role played by the Navajo, we get a series of cliches and stock characters, like the racist member of the patrol who in the end comes around. The Navajo are just too good to be true. Where the film scores, and scores resoundingly, is in the battle scenes. Director John Woo is a past-master at staging visceral action scenes, and Windtalkers at times rivals, though doesn’t surpass, Black Hawk Down in the you-are-in-the-thick-of-battle stakes. Technically, this is a very impressive film, but it could, and should have been more.Comments By Margaret PomeranzThis film is 180 degrees away from the intentions of a film like We Were Soldiers. There is actually no glorifying of war here, minimal sentimental heroics, it is a dirge about war and the damage it causes both physical and mental. I see Nicolas Cage’s character Joe as an existentialist soldier, bearing the responsibility for his actions, in the knowledge of his actions. He is a poetic being. The spiritualism introduced by the Navaho fits well into this scenario of bloodshed and redemption. Significant was the statement by Ben that in fifty years time we’ll most probably be drinking saki with ‘these bastards’ and picking on some other ‘poor bastards’. Apparently the film was edited by the Pentagon because it portrayed American soldiers in a poor light, they believed it was a film promoting enlistment in the armed forces. I saw it as an unsentimental view of man’s violence against man, and tragically a violence that never seems to stop. Well performed, well directed – I loved the way the camera caressed the landscape in the opening sequences – this is another in-your-face film about the destructive, tragic nature of war. Not quite up there with The Thin Red Line but still, in my aversion to war films, one of the very good ones.