In 1942, the US Marines trained Navajos as radio operators. Their native language was one code the Japanese couldn't crack - unless they captured a Navajo and made him talk. According to this movie, the Marines allocated a bodyguard to each op with a secret injunction to protect the code at all costs. So it is that battle-hardened Joe Enders (Cage) keeps his distance from fresh-faced Ben Yahzee (Beach). Hong Kong exile (and practising Catholic) John Woo would seem well placed to appreciate the ironies here. The war in the Pacific was marked by savage xenophobia on both sides. It does not go unremarked that the Navajo could pass for the enemy - which is how some GIs treat them. Yet the Native Americans are risking their lives for a country stolen from under their feet. Insofar as this is actually a film about belief systems, Woo conjures several quite moving scenes celebrating the courage and conviction which allows individuals to become comrades. But the screenwriters struggle to integrate the coded transmissions with the action, and the flamboyant set piece battles feel like so much empty rhetoric. The climax is especially contrived. An absorbing effort all the same.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||John Rice, Joe Batteer|
Brian Van Holt