The films John Woo made in Hong Kong were perfectly matched to the interests of young American audiences, filled with blazing guns, macho posturing and bloody climaxes. Not only did Woo do what U.S. studios were looking for, but he did it better than anyone else, especially in A Better Tomorrow, The Killer and Hard-Boiled. A decade ago, Woo arrived in America with his brand of action and adventure. He began small, working on a Jean-Claude Van Damme project called Hard Target before moving up in price (and class) through Broken Arrow, Face/Off and Mission Impossible II, which made enough money to grant Woo a bit more artistic freedom. He has exercised that freedom to make Windtalkers, his first attempt at a war film.

Despite Woo's penchant for battle and violence, his heroes and antiheroes have always tended to be rebels and loners. Woo is a devout Christian, and there must have been something about the themes of friendship, brotherhood and sacrifice in the script by John Rice and Joe Batteer that appealed to him.

The story takes place in 1944, during the war in the Pacific, and deals with a group of Navajo Indians who volunteer to become "code talkers" for the U.S. Marines. Since the Japanese have been breaking U.S. codes, the decision is made to use a variation on the Navajo language--a language the Japanese know nothing about--as the basis for a new code.