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Film Critics: 'Windtalkers' largely a bust
FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2002

It's official.

Windtalkers, the MGM release which features Canadian Native actor Adam Beach and Navajo newcomer Roger Willie as Navajo Code Talkers, sucks.

Well, that's according to almost every single film critic on the face of the earth. Except Natasha Washington of The Daily Oklahoman. She found the movie could be "one of the best portrayals of World War II to hit the screen."

But she added: "You be the judge."

Other reviewers appear to have taken up the advice and gone further. They weren't just the judge, they were the jury and executioner.

Chief among the complaints is the portrayal of the Code Talkers. MGM pitched the project as as educational vehicle but moviegoers won't learn much about the men who helped win World War II, according to the critics.

"Everyone knows Indians are knife fighters, right?" writes Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post. "So when the Japanese close in on Yahzee or his close friend Charlie Whitehorse, each private pulls an Indian knife – the deer foot as grip, available in the Wisconsin Dells or on the Internet for only $12.95 – from his buckskin boot sheath and dances with blades, as they whirl and dodge and slice and spin."

Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times (login:, password: sees a missed opportunity. Instead of delving into the prejudice the Code Talkers faced, and endured years after their contributions were ignored, the movie relies on fancy, he says.

"Windtalkers invents an angle — kill the Navajos if necessary to prevent their capture, an act not known to have happened — and ignores the more compelling truth, that the Navajos are prevented from being front-line troops in the same war in which a Native American helped raised the flag at Okinawa," Mitchell writes.

"How do you prove you're a patriot if you're treated like a second-class citizen?"

Steven Rosen of The Denver Post is more blunt. "There's a great movie waiting in the story of the Navajo code talkers of World War II," he writes," "Windtalkers isn't that movie."

But if there was one positive aspect that the critics were clear on, it's the incredible action scenes, something for which director John Woo is well known. For Jeff Strickler of The Minneapolis Star Tribune and Christy Lemire of the Associated Press, that seemed to save the movie from lower ratings. And USA Today and Chicago Tribune writers did find the movie pleasurable.

Film fans, however, don't tend to listen to reviewers. Critically panned movies are often blockbusters and Windtalkers could just be one.

But moviegoers do vote with their bucks. Whether the movie is a hit (and beat its reported $90+ million budget) will be known after the weekend box office results come in.

Until then? You be the judge.

Additional Reviews:
Empty 'Windtalkers' - "a lukewarm story about some unknown heroes of World War II" (Mick LaSalle / The San Francisco Gate)
'Windtalkers' intersperses action with contemplation - "capably made and certainly impresses by carrying its length" (Mike Clark / USA Today)
Woo at war is something to see - "will probably disappoint anyone looking for an in-depth look at the code talkers" (Eleanor Ringel Gillespie / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Windtalkers: Two Stars - "the filmmakers have buried [the Navajo Code Talkers] beneath battlefield cliches, while centering the story on a white character" (Roger Ebert / The Chicago Sun-Times)
Windtalkers: 3 1/2 Stars - "doesn't really delve deeply into psychology or American and Navajo culture" (Michael Wilmington / The Chicago Tribune)
Unable to Crack the Code - "not all it might have been, an oddly old-fashioned film from a director who's usually anything but" (Kenneth Turan / The Los Angeles Times)
'Windtalkers' message is garbled - "isn't daring enough to concentrate on the work demanded of its fictionalized set of code talkers, Adam Beach . . . and Roger Willie" (Gary Arnold / The Washington Times)
Windtalkers: Grade C- - "despite the promise of a Native American history lesson, Cage hogs most of the film" (E! Online)
Windtalkers - "a weak script that makes one think that the screenwriters never read the great war books" (David Hunter / The Hollywood Reporter)
Windtalkers: Two Stars - "stages harmony as an awkward blind date between the races" (Ed Gonzalez / Slant Magazine)
'Windtalkers' breezes past inaccuracies - "credits name a team of military advisers but you don't get a sense they were consulted very often" (William Arnold / The Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Relevant Links:
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