THREE STARS - CHALLENGING
One of the morally disturbing factors of war is that someone has chosen to kill another in order to accomplish political, economic or personal goals. Even when we accept the "just war" theology and decide that there are some evils that require lethal combat, the soul recoils at the action of taking another person's life. This reality, in all its graphic realism, is presented in John Woo's film "Windtalkers."
Based on a true incident in World War II when Japanese intelligence was breaking every code our military was using, the decision was made to communicate using the Navajo language. However, since this was a language and not a code, the decision was also made to pair each Navajo radioman with a seasoned Marine whose order was to kill rather than allow any Navajo to be captured, thus jeopardizing the code.
Sgt. Joe Ender (Nicholas Cage) was a troubled man whose angry soul made him a fearless fighter. Chosen to be the one to watch over Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), Ender tried hard not to care about him as a fellow human being. In contrast, Sgt. Peter Henderson (Christian Slater) was given the same orders, yet his gregarious nature caused him to not only care about his partner, Charlie Whitehorse (Roger Willie), but also to join him in bringing music into the horror of their lives.
Due to the nature of our souls, the military has made it traitorous to "fraternize with the enemy." Such contact causes us to realize that the people we are killing are not the animals we've been led to believe they are, but persons just like us with hopes and dreams and family and friends who want them to come home.
Since it is the central theme of the film, we won't divulge how these two persons respond to their orders or whether they kill their fellow Americans and fellow marines, who are the Navajo "windtalkers." However, it is enlightening to note the change that takes place in Yahzee.
Practicing his Native American faith and being anointed with ashes to protect him and help him be a mighty warrior, the natural repulsion he feels about killing is overcome and he becomes a vicious soldier like his partner Ender.
In a similar way, as Ender is in a moment of great need, he returns to his long rejected Catholic faith and repeats words he had learned as a child to comfort his soul.
In both instances, the use of religious ritual is used to help conduct and survive war rather than to seek guidance in how to stop it. This is always the danger in war. Though trying to spread a religion is seldom the actual motivation for war, it is often the label placed upon the aggression and its response.
It is no coincidence that "wind" and "Holy Spirit" are the same Hebrew word, and a "windtalker" would therefore be a person who talks with God. If we truly talk with God about the wars we wage they may cease.