Windtalkers (15)

Review by Simon Bell

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Actor's boot camp; Bravo special; Audio commentary with Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater; Audio commentaries with Navajos Albert Smith and Roger Willie; Fly-on-the-set diaries; Behind-the-scenes photo galleries.

SO, 'whale' means 'battleship', 'iron fish' stands for 'submarine' and 'chicken hawk' is what they said for 'divebomber'... I wonder what the Navajo term is for fat, over-priced turkey?

It's WWII and the US is getting fed up with the Japanese continually breaking encrypted military transmissions with apparent ease. Eventually, several hundred Native American Indians are recruited to use a secret code based on their own tongue. These Marines are the Windtalkers of the title, their cipher the only one never to be broken by the Enemy of the East.

The action's set in the Pacific during the 1944 Battle of Saipan (previously overlooked by Hollywood in favour of the better-documented D-Day Landings that took place around the same time).

Marines Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage teaming with director John Woo for the second time) and Ox Anderson (Christian Slater in his supposed Fourth Coming, though he may have to wait a little while longer for the comeback he's after) are assigned to protect code-talkers Ben Yahzee and Charlie Whitehorse.

Their orders are to keep the men safe at all costs but to do away with them quick sharp if they fall into enemy hands. The code is All Important, you see.

Of course there's conflict here: War-weary Enders is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; he's a dehumanised fighting machine now battling with his own ethics and the soldier etiquette he's been programmed to serve.

What follows, as Woo wrestles with his themes of friendship among men and brotherhood triumphing in the face of death, is a stock but slick actioner in all the form and shape you'd expect from the previous helmer of Hard Boiled and Face/Off.

There's a smorgasbord of flashy visuals and breathtaking photography but, much in the vein of Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, while it may look epic in scale, nothing much happens.

With Windtalkers, despite the cast of over a thousand, the acres and acres of Hawaiian and Southern Californian locations, the hundreds of vintage WWII era weaponry, the half a million rounds of ammo and the too-numerous-to-count instances of pyrotechnic bravado, it's woefully short on circumstance.

At the end, you'll feel a little dizzy maybe. But shell-shocked you certainly will not.