Dorian's Movie Reviews
Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.
During WWII, the enemy had learned to decipher US code and was killing many soldiers. No little problem was the time it took for US soldiers to decipher the military's own code. The Navajo Indians, one of the indigenous people in the US, had a language that wasn't written. The US recruited the Navajo to speak in a new code based on the Navajo language. The code was never broken, and the code speakers could decipher the code immediately. It helped turn the war.
If the Navajo code talkers were captured, it meant certain torture, and if they gave up the code it meant death for many soldiers. So the code talkers were assigned guards to protect them, and prevent them from being captured - even if it meant killing them. But the Navajos, like any people who were in any way different, weren't often accepted by the other soldiers. Not until 2001 were they officially commemorated by the US government. This is their story.
Director John Woo creates a very realistic environment in this fast and intense combat movie, from seeing men lose their limbs and lives, to seeing men killed while trying to carry the wounded from the field. Woo accomplished enough of the experience of "being there" that just about anyone in their right mind would want. But counterbalancing the misery and action scenes is the quiet ceremonial patience and music of the Navajo.
There is very little sense of plot to this movie. It is driven by engaging characters, provacative themes, and tense action sequences. Through the vehicle of war, the writers and Director John Woo explores the many faces of who we are as people, from the very sensitive and caring face, to the face that simply sees others as objects, and the transformation that occurs as people are called on to do inhuman things. In the movie, only once do we see the human side of the enemy, and that is when a code talker is confronted with a young soldier of his own age. Neither is able to kill the other. Beyond that, the enemy is simply an object to kill.
Many of the soldiers are unable to see the Navajo code talkers as anything but objects, but through the experience of living through war with them, the soldiers become able to see them as friends. For some it is a mind opening experience that other people who are so different, that they formerly saw as inhuman objects and despised, can actually be their friends, including former enemies.
Memorable scenes that depict this movie: Three scenes that were the antithesis of each other. One, Joe Enders (Nicholas Cage) is kind to civilians, giving a small boy medicine. Two, code talker Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) is unable to kill a young soldier of his own age. Three, Ben firing in an insane rage at an enemy soldier, and then trying to kill Joe, which reflects back on an earlier scene when Cage was firing insanely at an enemy soldier. These scenes all reflect the transformation of the soldiers from compassionate people to war-enraged maniacs.
This is not a "feel-good" movie. It makes you think. It shows you the horrors of war... the insanity of doing inhuman acts... and the kindness that prevails in us even in the face of great personal tragedy. It honors brave men. It is tense and dramatic. I give this one four spotlights out of a possible five for entertainment value. It carries an R rating - very violent. Enjoy!
My comments below attempt to draw attention to things that make a movie good, especially if they made major contributions, and for professional judgments on these various arts, the reader should consult professionals in these arts, and realize that these notes are not necessarily part of the overall rating for entertainment value.
Note: No half spotlights are given.
My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.
- Dorian Scott Cole
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