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A Review and the Trailer to WINDTALKERS -- Advance early early look at John Woo's Latest!

Hey folks, Harry here with a link to the Real Video (aka SUCK MY ASS THIS SUCKS FORMAT) trailer to John Woo's follow-up to the truly dreadful MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2 and his first American War film... He's made them before in Hong Kong, but that was long ago... But now he's got Nick Cage and that fantastic Indian actor from the wonderful SMOKE SIGNALS.... Adam Beach! Thanks goes out to JoBlo for turning me on to this trailer....Click Here For the Suck Ass Format of a Pretty Damn Good Trailer!!! As for the review from BONES... this was an extremely early Test Screening... The movie isn't scheduled to hit theaters till November... and there is a lot of post production and editing and reshoot possible changes that can happen between now and then.... so look at this review as merely a notice of current condition. Read on.... BUT BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!

Okay, here's my take on WINDTALKERS.

I watched a three hour director's rough cut of John Woo's WINDTALKERS (through someone in the industry working in post on the film). While I'm sure it will be trimmed and tightened, I don't think anything can save this tired collection of cliches from every WWII movie that you've ever seen. This film can be summed up in one word. DERIVATIVE. I'll add another. BORING. As a fan of Woo's Hong Kong work I wanted to like this so much but in the end I can only say that its action shows talented craft but its story is as hollow as a bullet hole through the head.

It starts out with Nick Cage's company of soldiers being wiped out in a battle under his command on an island somewhere in the Pacific. It all happens among fog and marshy jungle like in a horror film. The Japanese are relentless as they massacre the men (and are massacred back by Cage). Each attack fades to black as credit titles appear. Men die one by one and Cage can't save them. Finally they plead with him to leave because it's all gone to shit. But Cage barks for them to buck up and they fight to the last man. Then Cage is almost killed by a grenade explosion. Credits end and we shift to him being taken to a hospital.

Then we cut to Navajo Indians being picked up by bus from their homes to leave for war. We are introduced to two Indians that will become our Windtalkers. Now, if you are expecting to learn something fascinating about how the Navajo language was used to keep a battle code secret from the enemy during a world war, go read a book about it. Mere lip service is given to it in this story. The movie uses the premise that a trusted soldier is placed with each Windtalker communications Indian so that if caught by the enemy, their mission is to kill the Navajo soldier. Cage uses a nurse (a forced bit of romance for the trailer's purpose) to get certified for duty again (his inner ear is screwed up from that explosion and leaves him dizzy and unsteady at times) and he becomes the "security" for one of the Navajo Indians. Cage goes back to battle with a score to settle, hungry to kill, kill, kill. Like a rabid daaaaawg.

And that's it. From here on out it's explosions and shootings. Explosions. Shootings. Explosions. Shootings. Oh, Cage eventually softens up a little as his Windtalker becomes hardened and they see the worst in each other but any human moments are all stolen from old John Wayne movies (which were cliches even during Wayne's time). Christian Slater is assigned to the other Windtalker and at one point they find out they share a love for music. The Navajo plays a flute and Slater plays the harmonica and gosh darn it if they don't play a duet at one point. A soldier in the unit gets nervous before a battle and asks a pal to keep his wedding ring and send it to his wife, only to be shrugged off as being silly. Whoops, guess who dies next? Cage sees all these dead men after battles and flashes on his former pals cursing him (again and again). He gets drunk among some grave markers and stumbles around until his Windtalker helps him back to the tent. Gee, how many times has this been used? Oh, and yes, they have two guys facing off against each other with their rifle barrels stuck in each other's faces. What looked so cool in the past looks ridiculous in this context.

Now get this. They filmed it all out in some location outside of Pasadena or some other b-movie location. It's all lighted like something out of a 60s movie or a Bonanza TV episode. They use indoor sets for the night stuff and it looks so artsy cheap! You don't buy any of the location work. And the explosions begin to look the same after a while because of the constant repetition. There is NOTHING new in this film that you haven't seen before. Only it was made during a time when the hooey could be swallowed because it was done so innocently. Poor Cage. He really gives it his best but I suppose he did the same in CON AIR.

Woo has made an ode to b-movie war flicks while striving to be something more. A "serious" film. His wild pulp-action ways just don't jive with our modern understanding of the grit and gore and price of war. After films like SAVING PVT. RYAN and (both versions of) THE THIN RED LINE by directors that showed great growth and maturity, it's a shame that Woo makes a war film that exposes he has no real understanding of what it takes to live and die, only that he knows how to stage elaborate moments of bloody mayhem. He can show us what it looks like to shoot through a heart but he can't express what fills it. In my opinion WINDTALKERS is another in a long line of huge disappointments and failures for MGM.


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