Sunday 2 June 2019

Movie Review: Stealth (2005)

A science fiction military thriller, Stealth throws wild technology at the screen with admirable if mindless panache.

In the near future, Lieutenants Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) form the elite US Navy airborne Talon strike force, tasked with covert anti-terrorism bombing missions. After successfully destroying enemy targets hidden in desert caves, Talon's commander Captain George Cummings (Sam Shepard) introduces the team's latest recruit: the top-secret Extreme Deep Invader (EDI), a Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) operated by artificial intelligence developed by Dr. Keith Orbit (Richard Roxburgh).

Gannon has reservations about EDI, but the artificial intelligence proves its worth in a mission to assassinate terrorist leaders. But a lightning strike impacts EDI's circuits, leading to erratic behaviour. Despite the risks Cummings insists on sending EDI back into combat, and this time the unmanned aircraft goes rogue over hostile Asian airspace, endangering the other three team members and threatening to cause multiple international incidents.

An unlikely mashup of Top Gun and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stealth also predicts the expanded role of drone technology in modern warfare. Never pretending to be anything other than a wild ride packed with cheap thrills, the film deserves credit for decent special effects, a better-than-expected focus on the pilots, and even conjures up a nominal character arc for the artificial intelligence.

The script by W.D. Richter capitalizes on the available assets. Stealth is packed with imagery of the fictional F/A-37 Talon stealth bomber, and while plenty of the pilot-perspective computer generated flight action pushes into ridiculous territory, enough of the visuals are real enough to engage. And director Rob Cohen conjures a few moments of truly enjoyable spectacle, including a refueling mission gone wrong for Gannon, and an ejection, self-destruct and harrowing parachute drop for Wade.

And while the romance elements between Gannon and Wade are as clunky as expected in a milieu overrun by macho hardware and mumbo-jumbo software, Stealth conjures up a human-centred climax with plenty of on-the-ground action featuring a low-probability run-to-the-border and a high-odds search-and-rescue mission under enemy fire.

Cohen finds time to make his leads and locations as attractive as the sleek planes, a rest-and-recreation sojourn in Thailand providing a flimsy excuse for the stars to parade in bathing suits, not to mention providing a tourism boost for the Thai economy.

Stealth never threatens to be taken seriously, but delivers its entertainment payload on target.

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  1. Agreed. I file this one under "dumb fun."

    1. Yes, it provides decent diversion and is not nearly as bad as its reputation.


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