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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > World War II > Windtalkers (Blu-ray/Theatrical Cut)

Windtalkers (Blu-ray/Theatrical Cut)


Picture: B     Sound: B+*     Extras: D     Film: B



John Woo has discussed doing more than just action films again and some of his early Hong Kong work was bold enough to tackle subjects like the Vietnam fiasco.  His 2001/2002 film Windtalkers was the first step in that direction, offering action, a few clichés and the real story of Native Americans whose native Navajo language became a code the Axis Powers could never break, but they needed men to code and decode.


We previously covered the elaborate 3-DVD Director’s Edition that you can access at this link:





Nicolas Cage stars as the not-so-well-or-happy Sergeant Joe Enders, who must protect and look after Private Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach, recently of Clint Eastwood’s Flags Of Our Fathers, reviewed elsewhere on this site) in the battlefield where he is needed most.  This is the shorter 134 minutes cut and though I like it, I do think Woo’s longer cut is better.  It has its moments and they outweigh its drawbacks in either cut, though more good stuff did land up on the cutting room floor.  With that said, this is one of Woo’s most ambitious works and best U.S. efforts to date, as well as one my fellow critic liked even more than I did.


Fox and MGM have made this their first inaugural Blu-ray release as MGM moves from their distribution arrangement with Sony to Fox.  If this disc had been issued by Sony, with would have come with a PCM 5.1 mix that would have likely been very nice, but this basic Blu-ray offers DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio and that is at a higher kHz rate (192) than the PCM mix would offer at its highest (96) rate.  The few Sony/MGM discs that did make it to the market were mixed at best and will likely get reissued by Fox at a later date.  A few copies of the basic Robocop even made it to a few critics before being cancelled.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital MPEG-2 @ 18 MBPS High Definition scope aspect ratio transfer was shot using Panavision cameras and lenses, but used Super 35mm film shooting with Kodak 320T 5277 film stock.  Certain sections of this film were also shot early digital HD as well and then transferred onto film, which would be 1080i at best and can be noticed if you look closely enough.  The big problem with the old standard DVD transfer when compared to theatrical film prints was that all the colors, especially the reds were not so good, blood looked too fake and the HD shoot was part of the problem with it ever-problematic Video Red and lowering the film to match that was a mistake.  Stylized shooting is one thing, but this approach has aged quickly, adding age to the film it did not need.


* After complaining about standard Dolby Digital-only DVD versions all over the world, the English DTS HD 5.1 mix that is much better than those really sadly reduced Dolby mixes.  However, it might even be better than that because the best equipment to test this soundtrack on is just not available yet, so after complaining about standard Dolby Digital-only DVD versions all over the world, this proves how right we were about what we were missing.  When the better DTS HD equipment hits the market, we will test the sound here again.


However, to fit this film on a 25GB Blu-ray, Fox and MGM dropped all the extras.  We guess a 50GB Director’s Edition would likely be issued down the line, but this is a solid basic Blu-ray title and not surprisingly is only rivaled by Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz (1978) as the best Blu-ray title MGM has issued on the market to date.  We should also add that this is a great companion to the HD-DVD (and Blu-ray) paramount just issued for Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2, so anyone who enjoyed that HD disc will definitely want this one.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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