Many of us had such hope for this WWII drama from filmmaker John Woo, what with his impressive résumé—The Killer, Hard-Boiled, Face/Off and Mission: Impossible 2 being some of his more prominent successes—and the fascinating source material. The film was inspired by real-life Navajo "code-talkers" in the South Pacific who sent Allied messages via encryption based on their difficult language. The Japanese never managed to break the code. But the action is inappropriately focused on the white Marines (played by bankable Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater, both Woo veterans) assigned to protect the code-talkers. The endless war battles (as graphic as anything in Saving Private Ryan) are so repetitive, this Woo fan actually started to weary of the director’s trademark ballets of violence, not to mention the overt schmaltz and now-familiar visual references to Catholicism and slo-mo flying birds. Adam Beach and Roger Willie are just fine as the Navajos, but the movie should have been more about their characters than all this gung-ho "Semper Fi" twaddle.


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