Based on true events during World War II, the film highlights the unique place of Navajo Indians in the history of American heroes. Because the Japanese repeatedly intercepted and broke the U.S. forces’ communication code, the military fought an agonizingly slow and brutal march across the Pacific islands toward Japan. A spark of ingenuity brought several hundred Navaho tribesmen into the fray, using their unique, unwritten language as an indecipherable new code. Fearing a ‘codetalker’ might fall into enemy hands and give up the secret under torture, the army assigned bodyguards to the tribesmen. However, the guards also had orders to use any means to keep the codetalkers out of enemy hands. Battle-hardened Sergeant Joe Enders (Nicholas Cage) is assigned to protect codetalker Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach). Sergeant ‘Ox’ Anderson (Christian Slater) protects Yahzee’s friend, Private Charlie Whitehorse (Roger Willie). In the horrific battle of Saipan, when their capture is likely, Enders must decide if he can’t protect his fellow marine, can he kill him to protect the code?
Sandwiched between the beautiful misty scenes from Monument Valley, Arizona, stirred with haunting strains from an Indian flute, is yet another contemporary war movie shouting at us, “war is hell.” It hammers the point with such overwhelming ferocity that an otherwise good story surrenders. Moments of character developing interaction pale next to long stretches of soldiers being mowed down, burned up, blown apart, and decapitated. The Navajo warriors prove their bravery as Whitehorse saves the most racist of their comrades and Yahzee bravely accompanies Enders into a Japanese stronghold to commandeer their radio. Recognizing the prejudice of the times, Enders receives a battlefield decoration for his bravery while Yahzee gets a slight moment of condescending thanks to “the Indian”. However, Yahzee later honors his protector. A wonderful and true story, WINDTALKERS is blown away by graphic war violence, too many curses, and lame dialogue.