Stealth has no brain but a lot of brawn. And while parts of it are actually entertaining – in a lazy sort of way – much of this film is a complete no-brainer, despite the presence of all that advanced and intricate technology.
Though it comes across as a Top Gun for the 21st Century, unlike Tony Scott’s over-cooked but enjoyable film with Tom Cruise, Stealth is not sexy or funny and its devoid of the former film’s kitsch yet infectious soundtrack. Stealth also rips its ideas from 2001: A Space Odyssey plus any number of films featuring machines with a mind of their own – that eventually go berserk.
In the near future, despite the application of some 400 pilots, it’s been deemed that there are only three pilots fit and talented enough to fly the new US Stealth fighter jets. Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) are those three lucky pilots. So the Navy creates a clandestine fourth Stealth fighter, run by an artificial intelligence, but their plan goes disastrously wrong when it develops a mind of its own and – with the power hungry Captain George Cummings (Sam Shepard) in command – there are devastating results for the three human pilots.
Despite the implied speed of the Stealth fighter jets, the first half of the film moves as fast a partially-sighted person driving a Mini. But things do improve and the film ends up being surprisingly exciting due to a blistering amount of action, both in the air and on land. After all this is familiar territory for Rob Cohen, the director of both XXX and The Fast And The Furious.
Due to cryptic messages implanted in its own neural net, the fourth Stealth jet is soon malfunctioning with alarming results. This process brings to mind both Kit in the Knight Rider television series (it’s probably not a coincidence that Rob Cohen also produced the 1994 TV movie Knight Rider 2010) and, of course, Hal in Arthur C Clarkes classic novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and the subsequent film by Stanley Kubrick.
Certainly the only intelligence on display in Stealth is artificial. Its political awareness is decidedly superficial: one of the fighter pilots is forced to land in North Korea and, what with the diplomatic tension between the US and this closed-off country, this could have sparked some interesting dramatic scenarios. Instead, it’s just an excuse for violence and noise, with only the thinnest of hints at the mutual distrust between these two powers.
After starring in the darkly fascinating Collateral and winning an Oscar for his performance in Ray you’d think Jamie Foxx wouldnt be short of money. But he must be because there can be no other reason for his starring in a film such as this which will surely only tarnish his reputation as an inspiring thespian. As for Josh Lucas, well, he is far too smug, but at least he displays sufficient grit as the cocky lieutenant. Jessica Biel seems to be there purely for the eye-candy factor, not really displaying much in the way of acting skill. Sam Shepard, however, as the sinister Captain is very watchable.
Fans of all-out action films may well love Stealth. But even on those terms it’s only the high-octane climax that delivers. As for the story, frankly, there’s more substance in a Subway sandwich.