Published Aug 01, 2005Most of Stealth takes place in the sky, but it certainly doesn't soar. There are many shots of computer-generated fighter jets bobbing and weaving around each other over desert terrain, and there are some good 'plosions (Oscar winner Jamie Foxx gets to blow up real good), but it all seems kind of cheap and recycled. Imagine a Top Gun retread crossed with War Games and devoid of any kind of contemporary spin (the three square-jawed, all-American pilots are all gung-ho high-fivers who "live on the edge").
Director Rob Cohen and screenwriter W. D. Richter take this story of a rogue robot fighter jet and don't even bother to use it as a political metaphor. It's hard to believe that Richter, who wrote the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, could have missed the opportunity to subvert the military mindset - instead he celebrates it.
The action centres on a trio of pilots played by Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx - three actors who've never before registered such a deficit of personality or charisma. There's time for a perfunctory bit of unrequited love between Lucas and Biel, but it seems to be based on nothing more than proximity and lack of options (Foxx and Lucas might have made a more convincing couple). Most of the movie has these three acting from the cockpit - it's all gritting teeth and heat seeking missiles.
There's not so much a plot as there is a premise. The Navy has invented a state-of-the-art jet fighter piloted by an artificial intelligence called E.D.I. The jet becomes the fourth member of the team but, like any nerdy over-achiever, E.D.I. doesn't really fit in. He's not all that interested in sparing any collateral damage and so has no qualms about levelling a village in Tajikistan. From there, the chase is on, and the action is pretty standard.
Cohen never quite delivers the thrill ride you'd expect. This is the kind of movie that's laden with special effects and yet feels like an oddly small and modest effort. It has no sense of sweep and it's under-populated. Sam Shepard and Joe Morton round out the tiny cast and there aren't really any other speaking parts. Whenever the President is shown in the oval office it's a blurry shot from outside a window, as if they just got an extra to stand in for the role. If this was an expensive movie, the money certainly isn't up on the screen.
Maybe the most offensive aspect of Stealth is that Cohen keeps referencing 2001: A Space Odyssey, even going so far as to stage a scene in which the pilots are plotting against E.D.I., and he reads their lips, just like Hal 9000. Cohen may be a Kubrick fan, but in a movie this dull and derivative it's just more recycling. (Columbia/Sony)