Stealth Review

Pilots Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) and Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas) are three highly ranked US Navy pilots who have been selected and accepted for next-generation stealth fighter missions. Specifically, this means the Talon fighter plane, which is planned for use in missions against global terrorism sometime in 'the near future'. But aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, captained by Captain Dirk Harshfield (Joe Morton), they are introduced to their fourth wing man, EDI - Extreme Deep Invader - otherwise known, in military speak, as an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle. Powered by an artificial intelligence operating on the basis of a 'quantum sponge', EDI operates without human intervention and has been supported through its development by Gannon's commanding officer, Captain George Cummings (Sam Shepherd) and an unnamed presidential officer in Washington, both of whom are keen to see it in service.

They soon get their chance when word comes from the CIA that three terrorist leaders will be meeting in Rangoon in twenty-four minutes. With Wade, Purcell, Gannon and EDI airborne and within range, they are ordered to take out the building when EDI confirms the identity of the terrorists via biometric retina scans taken via a satellite. Computer simulations state, though, that civilian casualties will be too high, leading to EDI recommending a direct hit with a truncheon bomb that is successfully made by Gannon, resulting in a perfect first mission. On the way home to the Abraham Lincoln through a storm, EDI is struck by lightning and performs what is, for it, a clumsy landing. This alerts Gannon to there being something wrong with EDI - the downloading of all the songs on the Internet rather gives it away somewhat - but Cummings orders it back into the skies on a second mission. Again, though, civilian casualties are too great to continue and the three human pilots call off the mission but EDI does not and carries out a direct strike on four nuclear warheads, which results in a radioactive cloud of dust rolling towards a densely populated village.

EDI begins disregarding all future orders and begins identifying targets from a theoretical scenario in its memory, one in which a cold fusion weapons facility in Siberia is to be destroyed. Wade, Purcell and Gannon set off in pursuit of EDI but machinations back on the Abraham Lincoln and in Washington may prevent them from completing their mission. Is the US Navy about to turn on its own and will the presence of EDI in the airspace of the Former Soviet Union threaten World War III? Will EDI be the subject of a prosecution by the BPI for its illegal use of peer-to-peer software? And what of the quantum sponge?

I love teenagers. No other age of man gives me quite as much to laugh about and so long as I don't actually have to get very close to them, at least not so close as to breathe in the noxious odour of sweat, three-day-old underwear and grease, they remain a constant source of amusement. I also suspect that many, many teenage boys would happily give up their masturbating arm to be known as an Extreme Deep Invader, so great is the hint of sexual prowess in its crushingly obvious innuendo. In fact, the phrase seems somewhat familiar, such that it might well have been uttered during a sci-fi themed release in the long-running Assman series of films.

EDI, though, makes a great teenager, even to downloading hard rock from the Internet so to pop into a playlist during its more daring attacks, which includes a missile assault on an Tajikistani warlord in possession of a set of nuclear warheads. EDI even demands of Purcell to, "Leave me alone!" at one point, to which the pilot responds, "I'm only trying to help you." How many times has that conversation taken place up and down the land?

EDI also does what every teenager does when refused something that he really, really wants - fuel from an unmanned, airborne refuelling station, in this case - he pushes harder thinking that it'll help him get wants he wants but when that doesn't work, EDI just shoots the fuel controller and improvises. How many teenagers drift into an imagined resolution for every conflict that ends with them opening fire with automatic weapons. I would even guess, given that the film skips over this particular piece of information, that amongst downloading the latest Incubus and Dredg albums, EDI wandered over to IGN to download footage of the latest gadgets with which, ponder over during some quiet, uninterrupted time.

And what with EDI being such a unqualified success at being a teenager, it's hard not to warm to, whatever. You know that underneath the pressed Nirvana T-shirt, there is some good in all teenagers, even those who appear barefoot and pregnant on a midweek edition of Trisha, and so, despite the film working its very hardest to convince you that EDI is the electronic embodiment of all that's wrong with military jiggery-pokery, you'll find yourself feeling sorry for the jumped-up ZX Spectrum. Indeed, realising that the audience's sympathies were with HAL 9000 and not Dave Bowman as the former died to the strains of Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built For Two), this film realises that they cannot keep EDI as the villain of the piece and so, despite having his actions result in a thick radioactive cloud that threatens the lives of thousands of Tajikistanis - who are foreigners and so, the film appears to conclude, irrelevant when the fate of Jessica Biel is at hand - all is soon forgiven and forgotten as Gannon reminds EDI that he'll never forget about his wing man.

Of course, EDI's seeing of the light is as much logistical - EDI will run out of weaponry and fuel eventually - as driven by the plot but it's still a remarkably dumb moment when it occurs. As such its difficult to tell who the tag line - The Smartest Weapon In The World Has Met Its Match - is referring to as whilst I'm sure EDI is in there, I'm not convinced that Wade, Purcell and Gannon are deserving of being described as a match for it. It's not even a particularly thrilling film as the longer Stealth goes on, the more you can tick off the countries and regions listed by George Bush as being part of the Axis of Evil - the Middle East, rogue states of the former Soviet Union and Africa are all in here and when Wade ejects and parachutes into North Korea, you can't help but think, "But of course!" The effects aren't even awfully special, which for a film that should have demanded the very best to sustain the feeling of great speed, is simply not good enough.

Fans of big stupid movies, such as those of Michael Bay, won't find Stealth to be of much interest even to them. Having now seen three films by Rob Cohen - The Fast And The Furious, XXX and this - I suspect that he feels as though he has something to say and that he's incapable of just producing something as ridiculously and daftly entertaining as, say, Under Siege. Even here, where he plots the movements of his pilots about the globe with the outline of national maps in the manner of Risk, you can't help but feel that he's making a political point, which anyone who might have been at all interested in the film will find as welcome as finding half a beetle in a small cake accompanied by a peculiar crunch. As such, it'll probably be best loved by those who sing America...Fuck Yeah! with an entirely straight face but Cohen's less-than-valiant efforts to paint his film in the basic colours of right and wrong, order and terrorism and America and everywhere else in the world will leave everyone else cold. To add insult to injury, it's even racist, choosing to include a romantic subplot between the white Wade and Gannon whilst leaving the black Purcell to pick up various women across the world to appear to have little in common other than looking non-white and a bit ethnic. It's a dreadful film and hard to believe that it's one of the big releases in the week that it was released. With Rob Cohen making movies such as this, it's difficult to believe that anyone even notices Paul WS Anderson.


And, of course, it enjoys a superb transfer, as if there was a law that stated that the quality of the transfer is in inverse proportion to that of the film. Stealth on DVD comes with a pin-sharp image that's richly colourful and generally lacking in digital noise with the exception of some of the faster and more frenetic cutting in the film. For example, in Gannon's dropping of a bomb on a tower block in Rangoon that's followed by his blacking out and flight down a major street only inches from the road - really! - there's some noticeable mosquito noise around objects but it all happens so fast that you might not notice. Otherwise, though, there's little to complain about.

The audio tracks - you get a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS - are both excellent with the latter just edging it on account of its greater punch, which is noticeable on a film like this. The rock soundtrack - rather a common trait on Rob Cohen films - does tend to swamp the better sound production, particularly when EDI hits virtual puberty.


Disc One

The Music Of Stealth (23m33s): BT was the composer chosen by Rob Cohen to soundtrack Stealth and the director is on hand to explain his half-step theory, which sounds as grounded in anything approaching logic as EDI's quantum sponge AI. What this meant in practice - and we see this in this feature so I'm not making this up - is having the string section in the orchestra playing their instruments with cheap biros instead of bows. "Cool, dude!" is an oft-repeated phrase in this feature, which suggests that the filmmakers, including Rob Cohen who, at his age, should really know better, and Stealth's target audience do indeed have a common language.

Music Video (3m38s): Like Rage Against The Fax Machine recorded by a band who've got nothing more to be angry about than that their mom's didn't have their good pair of too-short trousers pressed in time for this video, Incubus' Make A Move is a tinny, dreadful piece of music but one that is somehow apt for this film.

Previews: With most of the special features on the second disc, any remaining space is given over to previews. And there are lots of them, requiring three menu screens to list the all and they include The Pink Panther (2005), The da Vinci Code, Into The Blue, Ringers: Lord Of The Fans and The Cave.

Disc Two

Harnessing Speed (26m47s): It's hard to believe that anyone would want to know so much about Stealth but they must for, otherwise, this wouldn't exist. Given the presence of speed in the title, this is initially concerned with little else - Rob Cohen says that he's been studying speed for the last seven years, which suggests that, as a director, his time might have been better spent elsewhere - but soon takes in a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage of the actors sitting in make-believe cockpits in front of green screens. Stop yawning at the back!

Detailed and Declassified: This is a detailed deconstruction of two scenes in the film - Kara's Fall (21m38s) and The Big Suck (26m41s), the second of which appears to belong in a different film, possibly the same one in which Extreme Deep Invader was first mentioned. What both features suggest is that Rob Cohen talks exactly like one of his characters, which, given his apparent age, is something he ought to know better than to do. Regardless of that, each feature takes in a lot of pre-production meetings as well as why the scene was written for the film before the viewer has a choice between two angles to look at how the scene was produced, which will most commonly be a version of the scene against a green screen whilst the other will be as it appears in the final film.

MX Multi-Angle Comparison: This extra is much the same as Detailed And Declassified but without any of the behind-the-scenes footage that tops and tails each interactive segment. As such, we get Welcome To Alaska (2m30s) and Escape From Alaska (2m30s), which feature a number of different angles that the action can be viewed from. So, for example, Welcome To Alaska offers three angles - storyboards, rough computer simulation and finished version - whilst Escape From Alaska includes footage from four out of the fourteen cameras that were used to film the explosion that allowed EDI and Gannon to escape.

All of these special features can be subtitled in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean or Thai but not English.


I'm not against bad films, after all I've watched all the Highlander films and I've actually paid money for the two Ghost Rig movies, which are amongst the worst that I've ever seen and although this isn't quite so bad, at least not so bad that you want to picket showings of the film, it's not good either. Even being a two-disc SE is largely a waste of one's time as there's nothing on the second disc that warrants it being there - scene comparisons and a twenty-seven minute making-of? There are much better films than Stealth with even The Fast And The Furious able to be seen in a better light following this one. At least, if nothing else, its cars didn't start to download songs from the Internet and shout, "It's not fair!" at Vin Diesel. Although...

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:06:22

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