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STEALTH(director: Rob Cohen; screenwriter: W.D. Richter; cinematographer: Dean Semler; editor: Stephen Rivkin; music: B T; cast: Josh Lucas (Lt. Ben Gannon), Jessica Biel (Kara Wade), Jamie Foxx (Henry Purcell), Sam Shepard (Capt. George Cummings), Joe Morton (Capt. Dick Marshfield), Richard Roxburgh (Keith Orbit), David Andrews (Ray), Wentworth Miller (Voice of EDI); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Laura Ziskin/Mike Medavoy/Neal H. Moritz; Columbia Pictures; 2005)
“It seems as if it were a video game gone amok.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s a darkly photographed humorless popcorn “Top Gun” kind of blockbuster movie, that has some absurd pretensions of duplicating Kubrick’s masterpieces of “Dr. Strangelove” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Instead it’s a mindless pyrotechnical film that features wall-to-wall state-of-the-art special effects and is about a runaway robotic warplane (called UCAV which stands for unmanned combat aerial vehicle and is run by a talking computer that’s called “EDI”) programmed with super-intelligence, where there’s non-stop action to coverup a ridiculous story line and paper-thin characterizations. Despite a few members of the cast who have shown their talent in other films, Josh Lucas, Sam Shepard, Jamie Foxx and Joe Morton, here they’re trapped into talking dumb military jargon and seem more like military recruiters than thespians. It’s by Michael Bay clone Rob Cohen (“xXx”/”The Fast and the Furious”/”The Skulls”), with W.D. Richter passing on what goes for a script. It seems as if it were a video game gone amok. The targeted teenage boy audience can look at the film as if it were a recruiting tool that shows them they can join the service and have an adventurous life, see the world, play with high-tech equipment, and score hot chicks.

The film is set in a near future when the U.S. government has big Tsores (troubles) dealing with Islamic terrorists, warlords and North Korea (Hey, wait a sec, don’t we have trouble now with these same guys?), but the U.S. military has come up with some new toys to take care of the problem. The square-jawed petulant heroic Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), the Miss Perfect smarty-pants with beauty pageant good looks Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and the African-American fast-talking womanizer Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) are a close-knit hotshot trio of Stealth fighter pilots involved in a top-secret experimental program headed by a glory-seeking gung-ho commanding officer Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard) who thinks of himself as a warrior and not a politician. Before the experiments are completed, Cummings uses his contact with a like-minded politician (David Andrews) to get the experiment passed without a final test and the EDI mission is declared ready for duty on the Navy carrier USS Abraham Lincoln located on the Philippine Sea and commanded by Cumming’s old friend Capt. Dick Marshfield (Joe Morton). Marshfield objected, thinking it’s a possible danger to see if this talking computer stuff really works in a real situation without making sure it grades out on the tests. When a fourth jet, navigated by EDI, is added to the mix, the three pilots balk at accepting it as they question its reliability and muse ever so slightly over their own impending obsolescence. It does raise the issue of war becoming fought by unmanned planes as if it were a videogame but quickly drops any further discussion to that effect (Rememember this is a Rob Cohen flick, so the philosophy musings never get past first base).

But wouldn’t you know it, the robot goes haywire when struck by lightning on a mission in Tajikistan to destroy the nukes and scud missiles of a warlord, and disobeys an order by wing commander Gannon to abort the mission because it will kill civilians. This rebellion endangers the other pilots and sets up a warlike situation as they violate the airspace of the Russian Federation. The pilots now try to get control of EDI but the robot fights back, insisting on completing a fictitious mission of blowing up a site in Siberia that could trigger a nuclear war. Cummings reveals himself as a renegade, ordering his wing commander Gannon assassinated (which takes place in Alaska) so he won’t testify at his court martial and then forces the Stealth designer Dr. Orbit (Richard Roxburgh) to erase EDI’s memory. But Gannon, in a juvenile comic-book manner, beats off his hit men in Alaska and flies to North Korea to rescue his love interest Wade.

None of it made a bit of sense. It looked and felt like one of those PlayStation games that just “went wrong”, where nothing was real so whatever happens doesn’t really matter. Anyway, it’s all about feeling the swooshing sounds of the Stealths and imagining yourself as a grownup dominating one of those super-powerful sleek metallic machines. If that’s where you’re at, that’s where you’re at.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”