Director John Woo's South Pacific World War II drama Windtalkers concerns the use of the Navajo language as a code to get radio messages past the Japanese. You might expect that to mean it would be a good opportunity for Native American actors, and it is, but as a big-budget Hollywood feature it also requires big-name Anglo-Saxon actors, so the story is more about the Marines played by Nicholas Cage and Christian Slater, who are assigned to protect the Navaho radio men (and, if necessary, kill them to prevent their capture), than it is about the radio men themselves. About the same proportion of cultural influences can be heard in James Horner's score, which uses many conventional elements but mixes in a bit of Indian flute playing and singing here and there. Woo rarely uses Horner's music for underscoring; most of the time it's either carrying scenes or is absent. For example, the film opens with a long sequence showing the Navajos enlisting that begins in Monument Valley, and as Woo devotes lengthy helicopter shots to the breathtaking scenery, Horner borrows heavily from Aaron Copland in a nearly eight-minute cue called "Navaho Down." Since his music is used more in peaceful scenes than in the typically over-the-top action sequences Woo devises, much of the soundtrack comes across as surprisingly restrained for a war movie. But in the appropriately named "Marine Assault," Horner does get into the thick of the fighting, and he does so with predictable elements, such as martial drums and slashing strings. The Windtalkers soundtrack album does not prepare the listener for the level of violence in the film (which is comparable to that in Saving Private Ryan), but that may make it more palatable than the movie itself.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Windtalkers, film score|