Unearthing the Garbage: Stealth

 Note: I remember first seeing this film shortly after it made its way onto video.  I was in a room with some other people.  When the film ended, everyone seemed to have really enjoyed it.  I did not.  And, for some reason, many years later I decided to rewatch it and review it for my blog.  There are bad movies that I like to watch, and then there are movies like Stealth.

Original Post:

Well, judging by the movie's title you would be quick to think that the film is about aircraft that can avoid detection.  Technically that would be correct, but in truth these are merely planes that hide from radar when it serves the script.  It is mere minutes into the movie that missiles lock onto these futuristic planes because it wouldn't be very exciting if they just flew around and nobody saw them.  It happens more than once, and the fact that the title and logic of the film lies to the audience so soon is a statement for what we will be getting into for the remaining run time.  Heck, one plane loses their stealth ability, but remains completely undetected until a really cool scene with a grand entrance could happen.  Explosions!

The plot of this movie is that it's the near future, and the United States navy has these super awesome jets that I guess are supposed to be stealthy.  We have three high flying pilots set to push the limits in these miracles of engineering.  There's Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Lt. Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and Lt. Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx).  This movie was right after Foxx caught everyone's attention with his performance in Ray, and he proves here that he can still be magnetic even in some dire crap.

The three pilots and their planes are being stationed on an aircraft carrier (which apparently is seen having three different Navy Registry numbers throughout the film), where they meet up with their mysterious new wingman.  It turns out that the new addition to the group is another stealth fighter that is piloted by a computer (it looks like some kind of metallic June bug with afterburners).  Everyone on the aircraft carrier is stunned by the technology (remember, this is set in the future) when the plane comes in and does a vertical landing.  They are equally blown away when it performs a vertical takeoff the next day.  Apparently they (or the writers and director) were unaware that this technology had been in use since 1967.  Apparently they also think that if you don't want a near sentient super computer to listen in on a conversation you just need to step behind a white bedsheet.  This is when Bed, Bath, and Beyond's contract with the Pentagon made sense to me.

Essentially we have a tired and battle worn story of AI that starts acting on its own.  Self preservation is the name of the game from here on in, and we are treated to lots of shots of planes flying across the screen.  Director Rob Cohen knows well that zooming in on stuff equals tension, and keeping stuff from remaining in the centre of the frame equals adrenaline.  It is a pile on of superficial techniques that are deployed to try and make up for the fact that the script just isn't that exciting.

And neither are the characters, to be honest.  They are far from exciting  While I do still like Jamie Foxx's performance, his character was a womanizing dick.  Jessica Biel and Josh Lucas were lifeless, and it is sort of an indication of why Biel's career never became what people anticipated, and why Lucas faded from mainstream fare shortly after this film.  Biel's character becomes insanely annoying in what is supposed to be an intense moment as she ejects from her broken plane only to then decide to narrate every single thing that happens to her on the way down to earth.

The fact that this movie calls itself Stealth contrasted with what it shows quickly indicates that the only rules that apply in this universe is that which best serves a plot.  Deep down I am fine with that, but a story has to be entertaining to pull it off.  The second and third John Rambo movies work this way, but they are silly fun (not exactly what Stallone was going for, but this is what we got) and too cool for school.  They move along at a solid pace, and there is always something visceral happening (such as a helicopter playing chicken with a tank for some reason).  If you are going to create a world where logic only exists to create cool scenes, then your scenes do need to be cool and done with energy.  That is lacking here.  It is trying to be super serious while being a rock and roll action flick.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about this movie is that it was sued by Leo Stoller who claimed to own the copyright for the word 'stealth.'

Rating - 1 out of 4 stars

"Talon 2 going down.  I'm punching out.  Urgh.  I've ejected at thirty five thousand feet.  Urgh.  I'm under the plane.  Oh no, here it comes.  Gasp.  There's... there's burning debris everywhere.  It's all over the sky.  Urgh, ugh.  It's... it's gonna catch me.  It's gonna burn up my chute.  I've gotta pop closer to earth.  I gotta... I gotta reset from five thousand feet to two thousand.  Gotta stay ahead of this... stay ahead.  Woughfph.  I'm reading at ten thousand feet, I'm terminal.  Six thousand.  Five thousand.  Four thousand.  Twenty five hundred.  Here we go.  There's burning debris.  It's raining all around me.  Argh.  It got my chute.  I'm hit.  I'm hit.  My chute is on fire.  It is on fire.  Oh god.  I am coming in fast.  I'm coming in way too fast."