Stealth (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

If Rob Cohen's name wasn't attached to this project, I would swear it was the work of Michael Bay. It has all of the crowd-pleasing director's trademarks: plastic characters, chaotic camerawork, lots of things blowing up, and an incredibly dumb screenplay. In short, it represents a great time at the movies for anyone who has recently undergone a frontal lobotomy. No wonder the guy sitting next to me started surfing the Internet with his blackberry less than half-way through this loud, frenetic snooze-fest.

Getting an audience to suspend disbelief isn't all that hard. If filmmakers can get viewers to buy into the premise, they'll usually be along for the entire ride. The problem with Stealth is that the movie starts out too stupid to be moderately credible, then proceeds to violate nearly every law of physics, chemistry, and logic. You don't have to be an engineer, a mathematician, or a scientist to realize that much of what's happening on screen bears no resemblance to any kind of reality. For Stealth to work, suspending disbelief isn't enough. It has to be switched off altogether. Some people can do this. I'm not one of them.

At various times, this movie wants to be different things. For a while, it's a Top Gun clone. Then it's War Games with a dose of the Star Trek episode "A Taste of Armageddon". ("War has to be messy!") Ultimately, it turns into Knight Rider in a Plane. It will come as no surprise that Stealth fails to provide any three-dimensional characters. The action, while high on pyrotechnics, is low on suspense. I suppose the aerial dogfights are cool - all five minutes of them (if you add them up). And the sight of Jessica Biel in a bikini is definitely eye-catching. But that's two minutes, tops. And to get to that scene, you have to wade through too much bad dialogue and predictable plotting to make it worth your while.

Stealth introduces us to an elite trio of Navy fliers: Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx). They have been hand-picked by their C.O., Captain George Cummings (Sam Shepard), for an anti-terrorism pilot program. Now, aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in the Philippine Sea, they are about to become active. But Cummings has a surprise for them. They are to be joined by a fourth aircraft - an ultra-secret unmanned vehicle codenamed EDI that is controlled by the most advanced artificial intelligence ever designed. On the way back to the ship after successfully completing the first mission, EDI is struck by lightning, and this causes him to go haywire. Suddenly, he's disobeying orders and following his prime directive - to "survive" - possibly at the expense of the lives of anyone trying to stop him. As EDI's actions become more extreme, he precipitates international incidents and forces Cummings to consider a drastic course of action.

The summary pretty much writes itself, which is also true of the screenplay. W.D. Richter hasn't penned anything for ten years, and, either Cohen destroyed his script or he should have stayed out of circulation for a while longer. The style of the movie is in keeping with that of some of the director's recent projects. Cohen's impressive resume includes titles like xXx, The Fast and the Furious, and The Skulls. How can you go wrong with someone like that at the helm?

Acting-wise, I'm tempted to say that the big difference between Stealth and the aforementioned Knight Rider is that this movie doesn't have anyone with the acting caliber of David Hasselhoff. Jamie Foxx wears sunglasses throughout the film, probably to remind us that he won an Oscar for Ray. The quality of his performance isn't reminiscent. Foxx gets third billing to Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel, both of whom look great in bathing suits. That's their noteworthy characteristic. Reliable performers like Joe Morton and Sam Shepard do barely enough to justify getting a pay check - show up, have their lines memorized, and say them without bursting into laughter.

Stealth has the feel of something that's normally dumped into theaters in late August when studios jettison overpriced trash. However, Columbia believes that this may be a "sleeper" hit. That term is appropriate, but not in the way the executives expect. Overlong, disjointed, and rarely compelling, Stealth has the capacity to put viewers into a catatonic state. But it's probably too much to hope that the film will slip into and out of multiplexes without anyone noticing.

Stealth (United States, 2005)

Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: osh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shepard, Richard Roxburgh, Joe Morton
Screenplay: W.D. Richter
Cinematography: Dean Semler
Music: Trevor Morris
U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Run Time: 2:00
U.S. Release Date: 2005-07-29
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1