The film genre, war, is “the ultimate form of the cinema” (Belton 195). It is identified by 3 main elements: A World of Extremes, Breaking Rules and Masculinity. The film Windtalkers fits the war genre perfectly. It has a caring nurse, love-sick solider, a commander who follows the rules, a racist, and even a scene where a Navajo saves the racist. Some tend to disagree, but it has many scenes that fit each element. Windtalkers enforces the expectations of the War Genre by showing a World of Extremes, Hyper masculinity and Individual to Group Goals.
To begin, A World of Extremes creates conditions in which extreme expressions of love, hate, action, violence and death can find representation (Belton 195). It is hellish chaos and where the smallest action or inaction leads to a death. Windtalkers promotes this idea basically the whole movie. The second scene starts off with a dead soldier in a lake. Then Joe Enders and his group of soldiers go in to battle with the Japanese; there are things getting blown up every minute but not that many soldiers are dying, a guy’s hand gets chopped off and he still manages to get away. Then it is just Enders and his friend left fighting off what seems like half of the Japanese army and Enders gets a bomb thrown at him and he makes it out alive. In real life that would not happen at all.
Belton says “characters in war films cautiously enter a hellish no-man’s-land of violence and death in which life is not ideal” (196). This statement is represented in the entire movie. The scene when Ben Yahzee and Enders go on to Japanese territory to use their radio is a great example of A World of Extremes. Yahzee and Enders kill every single Japanese soldier that is in the area and use the radio, but if 2 soldiers in real life did that they would not be able to take down about 15 soldiers and they definitely would not make it out alive. Another example is when Sergeant Anderson gets his head completely chopped off. The war film has its own “production numbers” in the form of explosive action sequences, superhuman feats of bravery, and spectacular displays of mass destruction (Belton 196).
Every one of those “production numbers” is shown multiple times throughout Windtalkers. Almost every scene of the movie there are explosives after explosives after explosives. Most of the characters have a point when they become superhuman, for example when Yahzee goes crazy and kills so many Japanese soldiers at the end. Mass destruction is not even a question in this film; everything gets destroyed. The village that they are in towards the end gets completely ruined. A World of Extremes is represented throughout the entire film.
In addition, Windtalkers enforces the War Genre by Hyper masculinity as well. The men in war films are unemotional, detached and aggressive. Joe Enders is the perfect example of this. He is not emotional about anything. He does not care about killing other soldiers and he does not cry when his friends are killed in front of him. Enders is detached and has no feelings towards any women. He has the nurse who really cares about him, but he will not let himself attach to her. She writes him letters constantly and helps him pass his hearing test and yet he will not let her in. Joe Enders also has to be aggressive. He is one of the main characters and needs to be aggressive and mean in order to survive. In the second scene the soldiers he is with are saying that they need to leave but Enders refuses and makes them hold their positions. Ben Yahzee is the complete opposite in the beginning.
He is emotional, attached and not aggressive. He cannot stop thinking about his wife and boy back at home and when he is told to kill someone he hesitates for a little because he feels bad. Without the unemotional, detached and aggressive Joe Enders it would be hard to show hyper masculinity. Belton says, “In every war film, masculinity is put in crisis; the toughness of the hero becomes an issue crucial to both his survival and that of his fellow soldiers” (200). Ben Yahzee and the rest of the soldiers needed Joe Enders to survive. Towards the end of the movie Yahzee and Enders switch places and Yahzee becomes the aggressive one which was the only way he survived. Masculinity in war films are put to the test with women.
Women are either seen as a threat or as objects. In Windtalkers, Ben Yahzee’s wife was seen as a threat. He keeps thinking of her and his little boy and constantly looks at the picture he has of them. Relations with a woman suggest vulnerability in the hero and the vulnerability will eventually destroy him (Belton 200). Ben Yahzee puts his feelings away towards the end of the film which helped him survive. The hyper masculinity in Windtalkers enforces the expectations of the War Genre.
Lastly, Windtalkers fits in the War Genre because of its scenes of Individual to Group Goals. In war films, the needs of the individual frequently give way to those of the group (Belton 197). When the soldiers are being attacked by their own, Ben Yahzee puts on a Japanese uniform to pretend to be one of them so he can use the radio to tell them to stop shooting. He risks his life by going over there, but he realizes that he would be saving the rest of the soldiers. Yahzee put the group first before himself. Another example is when one of the soldiers gets caught in the fence and they use him to get the other soldiers over. His needs to get out of the fence were overweighed by the rest of the soldiers needing to get over.
Also when Charlie Whitehorse is taken captive by the Japanese soldiers he gives Joe Enders the nod to throw the bomb and kill him. Joe and Charlie both knew that in order to protect the American soldiers and the code, Joe needed to kill Charlie. This shows that the needs of the individual gave way to those of the group. Belton says “The exceptional circumstances of the battlefield force individuals to place their own needs beneath those of the platoon, squadron, division, battalion, fleet, army and nation” (197). Windtalkers enforces the expectation in the War Genre of Individual to Group Goals.
All in all, the film Windtalkers fits the War Genre. It does a good job portraying A World of Extremes by showing all of the violence, death, hellish chaos, and mass destruction. Hyper masculinity is seen through many of the characters especially Joe Enders and Ben Yahzee towards the end; they both needed to be aggressive, unemotional and detached in order to survive. Lastly, the needs of the individual give way to the needs of the group, for example when Ben Yahzee risked his life for the rest of them to try and stop them from shooting their own. All of these characteristics portrayed in Windtalkers enforced the expectations of the War Genre.
Belton, John. American Cinema American Culture. 3rd Edition/Special Edition for Florida State University ed. N.p.: McGraw-Hill Companies, n.d. Print. Windtalkers. Dir. John Woo. Perf. Nicolas Cage. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2002. Netflix.
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