Plot: What’s it about?
Sergeant Joe Enders (Nicholas Cage) is a Marine decorated with all kinds of honors, medals, and awards, but his most important mission lies ahead. After some trickery on his medical exams, the usually by the book soldier is allowed to return to service, but his assignment is not a typical one, not by any means. He has been ordered to protect a codetalker, but unlike all the other codes used by the United States forces, this code has never been broken. As such, it is a vital and most important weapon in the battles, so Enders’ assignment is a serious one, though he is reluctant and displeased at the start. Enders is paired with a Navajo codetalker named Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), while a fellow Marine “Ox” Anderson (Christian Slater) has been told to protect the other codetalker, Charlie Whitehorse (Roger Willie). As the trek begins, Enders is doubtful of the true worth of these codetalkers, but as time passes, he sees their value and when he realizes this, the assignment goes beyond normal duty. Soon enough, Enders and Yahzee are more than fellow soldiers, but if the enemy should capture the codetalker, how far would Enders go to bring back the military’s best secret weapon, who also happens to be his friend?
A movie that cost over one hundred million dollars to make, Windtalkers needed to be a hit to turn profits, but instead, audiences turned cold. Even with Nicholas Cage as the headliner and action master John Woo in the director’s chair, Windtalkers failed to spark box office numbers, due in part to bad word of mouth. And while I am a fan of Woo’s career, I was let down with this picture, as he moved away from the story too much, in order to focus on large scale war sequences, which lessens the film’s impact. As well all know, Woo is known for his over the top action scenes and he delivers those here, but he has often been able to weave in a great story also, which doesn’t happen with Windtalkers. The true life material lends itself well to such a movie, but Woo’s focus on action instead of story pushes it to the back, so aside from some window dressing at times, the codetalker aspect is downplayed. Even so, I think fans of war movies and Woo’s films should enjoy the battle sequences, if nothing else. MGM’s Blu-ray release is bare bones however, so you know a special edition or director’s cut is down the road, so unless you’re a diehard fan, you’d be better off holding out.
The name player here in front of the camera is Nicholas Cage, who seems to be stuck in some less than rewarding roles. If the subject of the codetalkers was better explored here, Cage might have been able to do more, but with this being more action than drama, he can’t do much more than give a solid performance. I mean, his character isn’t looked at too much beneath the surface, save a few cliche turns, so Cage is unable to open up much here. A little more work on character development and story depth could have allowed a better effort, as we all know Cage can score when he has the right material. Even with limited material to work with, Cage does the best he can and that provides a decent turn, though an unmemorable one. Other films with Cage include Honeymoon in Vegas, Face/Off, Bringing Out the Dead, Leaving Las Vegas, Kiss of Death, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The cast also includes Adam Beach (The Last Stop, Joe Dirt), Peter Stormare (The Million Dollar Hotel, The Big Lebowski), and Christian Slater (True Romance, Interview with the Vampire).
Video: How does it look?
Windtalkers is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This movie has a unique visual design, one that doesn’t always help showcase how good Blu-ray can look. Even so, this is a stunning presentation and a step up from the standard DVD, a transfer I always praised. That transfer was impressive and this one is even better, with a sharper and more refined presence. Even so, the visual design has an intentional washed out look at times, which causes a reduction in overall sharpness. The colors look good, but suffer some minor quibbles at times, though contrast is spot on throughout. I didn’t find grain to be much of an issue, which is good news. So while not an elite level transfer, the movie looks quite good here.
Audio: How does it sound?
As usual on Fox’s Blu-ray releases to date, the soundtrack is a DTS HD option. This movie never sounded that dynamic, as both the theatrical and DVD presentations lacked depth and power. This carries over to this new version, but the flaw probably lies with the original sound design. There is ample power at times, but the focus seems to be on volume, as opposed to design or immersion. This kind of material is ripe for directional presence and environmental presence, but instead, we have sheer power. So what could have been a mix of power and subtle atmospheric design, winds up as loud, but poorly designed. The dialogue is clean and clear though, so no vocals are lost in the process. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release includes no bonus materials.