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CL's capsule reviews are rated on a four-star rating system, one being the lowest and four being the highest.

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WINDTALKERS On the heels of the art-house effort Enigma comes another movie about the wartime practice of speaking in codes. Yet whereas that previous picture smoothly integrated its World War II history into an absorbing "cloak and dagger" yarn, this latest endeavor brings up a fascinating footnote in US history then largely ignores it in favor of spinning an overly familiar action pic that won't impress anyone who's caught, say, The Sands of Iwo Jima or The Naked and the Dead on late-night Turner. Nicolas Cage, who hasn't delivered a particularly memorable performance since his Oscar-winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas seven years ago, is all brooding boredom as Joe Enders, a psychologically tortured Marine (all the men under his command were killed during a recent Pacific battle) whose latest mission pairs him with Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), a Navajo whose language has been adopted by the US military as the foundation for a code that the Japanese have proven unable to crack. Enders' mission is to protect the code, not the man, meaning that Yahzee's life is expendable should it appear that he's about to fall into enemy hands. There's a terrific movie buried somewhere in Windtalkers, but director John Woo (Mission: Impossible 2) and his scripters downplay it in favor of spitting out yet another stale "war is hell" bombardment of the senses, with redundant action sequences and character types that have largely worn out their welcome (most notably the "woman left behind," played by Frances O'Connor in an embarrassingly unwieldy role).


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