Windtalkers - Wikipedia
This idea of these code talkers is compelling but unfortunately is lost here in . in this film which could have perhaps been genuinely refreshing, but in the end, . explored on their characters' relationship instead of following Joe and Ben's. Windtalkers, a film starring Nicolas Cage, was based on the code than the actual war had, its failure ended up halting John Woo's rise. The film also develops the relationships between the men without quite ever I knew as much about the 'windtalkers' at the end of the movie as I did at the start.
The film essentially shows how ignorant and horrible the white Americans are to the Native Americans, even if they are on the same side and fighting for the same things. At first, I thought the concept was quite clever and interesting as the subject was definitely different when compared to other films with the same setting, but if only the writers and Woo could put all of their eggs in that basket and not spend too much time on the expected elements of the war film.
The film contains ideas that touch on morality and sense of purpose, which was primarily placed on our leading character, Joe, but was done in such a way that felt contrived. The film could have benefited if the entire story behind Joe was written out and changing its perspective on Ben instead; the film pushes us to sympathise for the character, but it becomes difficult when the film spends too much time going back and forth between the two leads, each one with something important to tell.
The film is also so invested on its characters, that it forgets to even orient the audience on where they are and what their goal is, all that I knew when watching this was that they were in a Japanese island heading towards somewhere; that physical goal is almost blurred out throughout this film. This was one of the reasons why I couldn't fully invest myself into the film's characters as it draws too much attention to itself and I end up feeling distant from the situation.
If there was something aside from the film's ambition that I could compliment, it would be the film's action sequences. These particular scenes are done quite well to create a sense of tension and thrill as its scope is quite large and there are enough variety on each major action sequence that it avoids feeling dull. Though it does have a few issues, these scenes lack a sense of connection with its characters as Woo seems to be more interested in having us be entertained by their actions rather than the individuals themselves.
Woo also fails to have the two sides of the battle be clear, as the film doesn't follow the action in a cohesive way and the audience's sense of place is lost throughout the entire scene; scenes starting here then suddenly ending up somewhere else in the battlefield that I didn't even know that it existed or was important.
There also is an abundance of explosions in these scenes; with most of them being too extravagant as why do all explosions seem to turn into a large ball of fire? The gunshots also seem to hit on point way too often with multiple moments coming off more as flukes rather than pure skill. The film's photography, I felt for the most part was polarising. The film's tone is essentially dual, with one being quiet and contemplative while the other is bombastic and thrilling.
The former side of the film features smooth steadicam camera work that provide sufficient movement to make scenes come off as "dynamic", though sadly it didn't work at all for me as most of it comes off as manipulative. It tries so hard to draw emotions up to the surface and feel "immersed" in its characters, and it got to a point where I felt a little frustrated when the camera pulls us in towards their faces in order to have the audience feel closer to the character.
This wouldn't be too much of a bothersome if the acting and story were top quality, but sadly it doesn't even come close to that. The latter tone was handled more brilliantly, especially when comparing it to the former. The photography then switches to using a hand-held style approach which successfully brings us in the situation, feeling the tension and destruction that fills the atmosphere.
Codemakers: History of the Navajo Code Talkers | HistoryNet
Though I did have a problem with the film's use of slow motion as it was used way too often during battle sequences and by the time you see one during the third act, one can't help but feel annoyed or bored with the style; I don't mind the use of slow motion as long as it is done in an effective way, which actually adds something to the scene instead of just appearing to seem "cool". The film's score was handled by James Horner, which was actually a surprise to me as this film had an underwhelming score, and a couple of his works are those that I consider amazing.
As I said, his work for this film is disappointing as it comes off as manipulative and safe. It doesn't bring a tune that one would remember when reminiscing about the film, and most of it actually feels like it rides the line between hopeless and hopeful, it doesn't know exactly what it wants to say or do.
Though Horner was able to incorporate sounds or tunes from the Native American culture, which I felt was a nice touch. The acting in this film was for the most part disappointing. Nicolas Cage failed to show that he even cares about the role he is playing, with most of it seemingly breezing through. I think it wouldn't hurt the film too much, if he was playing a supporting player, but since he is playing the leading man and the most of the film's focus is on him, it brings the entire film down.
Luckily, Adam Beach's presence prevents it from being a total disaster. He plays his character well, and achieved in having me at least remotely care for his character. His actions and emotions felt genuine, even during the times of conflict. I also just want to mention the great performances from both Christian Slater and Roger Willie, as they too were able to give off a sense of genuineness that was lacking in most of the film's characters.
I wouldn't have actually minded if the film instead, explored on their characters' relationship instead of following Joe and Ben's. Windtalkers is a film that seems to have good things going in all aspects of its creation, but is buried under the disappointing and lacking elements, making it a hard film to enjoy. I just hope that not all of Woo's films are as disappointing as this one. Enemy forces often knew about American battle plans in advance, and no defense against Japanese codebreaking had materialized.
An unlikely answer came from an unlikely source. Philip Johnston, a civil engineer who lived in Los Angeles, was the child of missionaries who had raised their son on the Navajo Reservation, which stretches across New Mexico and Arizona.
Born in Kansas inJohnson had grown up speaking Navajo. Depending on pronunciation, a Navajo word can have four distinct meanings. Navajo verb forms are especially complex.
Outsiders generally find the language incomprehensible and have likened hearing it spoken to listening to the rumble of a freight train, the gurgling of a partially blocked drain, and the flushing of an old-fashioned commode.
Inthere was no Navajo alphabet. The language did not exist in written form. At government boarding schools to which Indian children were sent, teachers and administrators often forbade their charges to speak Navajo or any other Indian language, demanding that they speak only English.
Reading an article about military security, he had an idea: He thought through his concept and in February visited U. Jones, Johnston described how a code based on Navajo would thwart enemy codebreakers. Jones was skeptical but Johnston persuaded him to test the premise.
Back in Los Angeles, Johnston recruited four bilingual Navajos. He and they traveled on February 28 to Camp Elliott for a demonstration before Marine staff officers.
Two Navajos were given a typical military field order and assigned to a room from which they were to transmit the message in Navajo to their companions several rooms away. Retranslated into English, the Navajo message accurately recapitulated the order as given, amazing the Marine observers. Many of the Navajos recruited for the program had never left their reservations in the American Southwest, but soon found themselves headed across the Pacific Ocean to fight a war.
Besides fluency in Navajo and English, candidates had to demonstrate that they were physically fit to serve as messengers in combat. Officially, Marine recruits had to be between 16 and 35 years of age.
Birth records were not usually kept on the reservation; some underage volunteers lied about when they were born, as did year-old Fort Defiance resident Carl Gorman. Few volunteers had ever left the reservation.
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Many had never ridden on a bus or train. Officially the nd Platoon, U. During a dress parade on a hot day, several white Marines passed out; the Navajos remained erect in formation and at attention during the personal inspection that followed.
Code words had to be short and easily learned and recalled.
The men developed a two-part code. The second part was a word English vocabulary with Navajo synonyms. Conventional Marine Corps codes involved lengthy encoding and deciphering procedures using sophisticated electronic equipment. One volunteer dropped out. Several remained in California to train the next group.