Many have been willing to die for their beliefs. From the patriots who forged our nation to modern advocates of change and revolution—like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi—many have stood tall and sacrificed all for the greater good.
Since Sept. 11, our nation has been reminded that sometimes one must do more than die for the common good. Though men like Gandhi and King took nonviolent stances, last fall’s plane hijackings have moved many to cry for retribution, which often brings more loss of life.
Noble men and women of our military have been placed in harm’s way, not just to die for their country, but also to kill for it. The decision to kill an enemy requires one level of commitment.
“Windtalkers,” John Woo’s new World War II drama starring Nicholas Cage, raises the bar on commitment. The moral question at the heart of the film is not whether would one kill the enemy for one’s nation or beliefs, but whether would one kill a comrade-in-arms, a friend, for the greater good.
“Windtalkers” tells a story based on actual events. During the Pacific campaign of World War II, the U.S. military used the Navajo language for its codes, which the Japanese found impossible to crack. The United States recruited Navajos to create the codes, and because of their unique skill, they were very valuable.
In fact, they were so vital to the war effort that they were given bodyguards. These bodyguards had strict, secret orders to kill the translators if their capture seemed imminent.
As the film unfolds, two characters, played by Cage and Christian Slater, are assigned code breakers to protect and, if need be, assassinate. At one point in the film, Slater’s character, Ox, asks Cage’s Joe Enders, “Do you think you could do it, Joe?” That question is the heart of the film.
“Windtalkers” is not in the same league with several recent war films. “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Thin Red Line” and “Black Hawk Down” are executed with more flair and tell more engaging stories. “Windtalkers” contains too many war film clichés, such as the guy who is convinced he will die in the next campaign even though his buddies tell him he will not, or the soldier who is prejudiced until his life is saved by the one against whom he has been discriminating. These plot points and several others make the film far too predictable.
Director John Woo, whose earlier works include the combative films “Face/Off” and “Mission: Impossible 2,” continues to be enthralled with action sequences filled with explosions. These become monotonous around the second big battle scene. Ultimately, “Windtalkers” does become tiresome.
Despite its flaws, it does leave the viewer with that lingering question. Many will die for their country and what they believe. Some are even willing to kill the enemy for those things most dear. How many would also be willing to kill someone they cared about?
Perhaps the moral dilemma of “Windtalkers” comes down to those poignant words of that great philosopher, Mr. Spock, in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” when he said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”
If one holds to that truth, then the task may seem easier. God willing, few or none will ever be faced with the difficult choice of sacrificing the one for the greater good of all.
Roger Thomas is pastor of Northeast Baptist Church in Atlanta.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive graphic war violence, and for language.
Director: John Woo
Writers: John Rice and Joe Batteer
Cast: Sgt. Joe Enders: Nicolas Cage; Pvt. Ben Yahzee: Adam Beach; Pvt. Charles Whitehorse: Roger Willie; Sgt. “Ox” Henderson: Christian Slater; Pappas: Mark Ruffalo.