Windtalkers (2002)

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Released 3-Dec-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Audio Commentary-Nicolas Cage & Christian Slater
Audio Commentary-Roger Willie & Albert Smith (Navajo Code Talker)
Featurette-Windtalkers Bravo Special
Featurette-Actor's Boot Camp
Featurette-Fly On The Set Diaries (4)
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 128:42 (Case: 130)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (84:55) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Woo
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Nicholas Cage
Christian Slater
Adam Beach
Frances O'Connor
Peter Stormare
Roger Willie
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music James Horner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Czech
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Set during the battle of the Pacific in 1943, Windtalkers follows Sergeant Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage), a recently traumatised Marine who is assigned the protection of Private Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach). The US Marine Corps has developed a code based on the Navajo Language in an effort to prevent Japanese decryption. Yahzee, a Navajo, has been trained as a code talker and it is Enders' mission to protect the CODE at all costs. Enders, whose first command ended in tragedy, must choose between the man or the mission in this World War II epic directed by action maestro John Woo.

    In the wake of the success of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, Hollywood has flooded the marketplace in recent times with numerous war films, from the highly successful and extremely well made Black Hawk Down to the horrendously written and incompetently filmed Pearl Harbor. Windtalkers was unfortunately met with indifference by critics and audiences alike when it was released theatrically earlier this year. John Woo has made a harrowing film, filled with some of the most intense battle sequences ever put on celluloid. Woo, a master of action choreography, foregoes his usual balletic style of gunplay and instead captures a startling realism of brutality that is truly astonishing. The sheer scale of conflict as captured by cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball is breathtaking, all the more remarkable as the film is almost totally devoid of Computer Generated Imagery to enhance the scale of the battle field. Made the old-fashioned way, with thousands of extras, stunt men and pyrotechnics, Windtalkers is a real tour de force of technical ingenuity and skill.

    Fascinated with themes of loyalty, redemption and friendship, Woo, as in his previous best work (A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Face/Off) uses the story of unlikely friendship and sacrifice as his focal point. Woo is a past master at highlighting the nature of intimate relationships set against the backdrop of extraordinary situations, and it is evident here that he has not lost his knack for capturing the subject.

    Nicolas Cage puts in a remarkable performance as Joe Enders. His inner conflict between duty and friendship is beautifully realised, and it is a credit to both Woo and Cage that this underlying theme is never lost throughout the numerous action sequences. Newcomer Adam Beach as Yahzee acquits himself well, and it is great to see Christian Slater re-establishing his career after several personal setbacks. Other cast members are unfortunately not given sufficient time to flesh out their characters. This is the one fault of the film, but this is a minor quibble in what is already a moving story of redemption and friendship, and one of the best films of the year.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Let me start by saying that this is an exceptional transfer, and although not reference quality, it comes very close.

    The transfer is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2:35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is as sharp an image as you could hope for. Shadow detail is superb, with a tremendous depth of field displayed at all times. Edge enhancement is not an issue, and neither is grain or low level noise. The resultant almost perfect image is a real treat for the optic nerve.

    The colours are rich and natural. Flesh tones are well presented, and not overly saturated. Especially well rendered by the colour palette is the location work, which is truly inspired.

    There are no MPEG artefacts to speak of, and film artefacts (if present) were undetectable by this reviewer. This is definitely one of the best looking transfers I've seen this year.

    This is a dual layered disc with RSDL formatting. The layer change occurs at 84:55 and is well placed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This is a ferocious soundtrack that totally immerses you in the events depicted on-screen.

    There are four audio tracks provided; English Dolby Digital 5.1, Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 and two audio commentaries presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is an absolutely dynamic surround sound experience, and the one I will concentrate my review on.

    The dialogue is at all times clear and well presented. There are no audio sync problems, which is impressive as most of the dialogue would have been recorded later due to the external sounds of the battlefield.

    The music, by James Horner, although not one of his best scores (personally I believe he will never top his score to Legends Of The Fall), is well thought out and enhances the emotional context of the film without ever becoming bombastic or overly intrusive.

    As stated earlier, the surround channels get a substantial workout, especially during the battle scenes. All this is amply supported by the subwoofer which is in use almost the entire length of the film. A very potent 5.1 mix indeed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio and Animation

Scene Selection Animation & Audio

Audio Commentary 1 - Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater

    One of the better commentaries I've heard recently. Cage and Slater provide an entertaining mix of humour and reverence for the subject material and provide enough on-set anecdotes to keep the listener happy. Both participants obviously have a great affinity for John Woo as both have previously worked with the director; Cage in Face/Off and Slater in Broken Arrow.

Audio Commentary 2 - Roger Willie and Albert Smith (Navajo Code Talker)

    Unfortunately, the more mundane of the two commentaries. Although educational, courtesy of Smith, it does become tiresome and monotonous after a while. Not something I would listen to more than once.

Featurette 1 - Windtalker Bravo Special

    Running for about 11 minutes, this featurette is nothing more than an extended trailer and is your basic promotional piece; 15 seconds of interview followed by 40 seconds worth of film clips. Not very good, but welcome nonetheless.

Featurette 2 - Actor's Boot Camp

    15 minutes of behind-the-scenes training with voice-overs by the actors and production crew. Interesting in so far as it shows to what lengths some people will go to immerse themselves in the part, although I found it odd that Nicolas Cage was not one of the participants (presumably a scheduling conflict). Well worth a look.

Featurette 3 - Fly On The Wall Set Diaries (4)

    Four behind-the-scenes clips running about 5 minutes each devoted to specific action scenes. All are interesting and show the amount of effort involved in mounting some of the more elaborate battle set-ups.

Photo Gallery - 34 Production Stills

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R4 version misses out on 2 trailers for Windtalkers, and one for Hart's War.

    The R1 version misses out on both audio commentaries, all three featurettes and the photo gallery.

    There is a new 2 disc Directors cut of Windtalkers available in Region 1 that adds 23 minutes of additional footage. This is now the best version available.

Summary

    Windtalkers is a much overlooked film. Personally, I consider Windtalkers to be one of the best films of 2002, and a highlight in John Woo's career. It is presented on a more than acceptable disc that totally outshines its Region 1 counterpart.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Greg Morfoot (if interested here is my bio)
Friday, November 22, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 76cm Widescreen Flatron Television. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony HT-K215.
AmplificationSony HT-K215
SpeakersSS-MS215

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Comments (Add)
Bond Trailer On R1 Windtalkers - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!) REPLY POSTED
Wind"Breakers" more apt - Steve R (Biola)