Stealth (2005)

Stealth probably sounded like a better idea on paper than in practice. Here’s the pitch: A top-secret and elite group of jet fighters go around the world killing terrorists. The government wants to add an artificial intelligence plane to the fleet. The A.I. fighter goes rogue. Cue dramatic music. That’s a good idea, and if that had been all the film wanted to do — have the three leads attempting to stop this rogue plane in fierce aerial combat, Stealth probably would have worked.

As you’ve probably figured out, that’s not the direction the film takes. In fact, apart from a brief 30-minute diversion from the main plot, that’s not at all where Stealth goes. It takes a long time to get there, firstly, and has so many meaningless scenes at the beginning that you have to wonder exactly why such an intriguing concept was used in the first place. We get these “character” scenes early on which do nothing to establish our leading characters, we get a couple of brief missions that our top pilots go on, and we even have them go on vacation for reasons never really explained.

The pilots: White Man (Josh Lucas), Ethnic Minority (Jamie Foxx) and The Girl (Jessica Biel). I can’t define their personalities or reasons to exist any more than that. Oh, wait, the White Man character is headstrong and disobeys orders, Ethnic Minority wears sunglasses a lot and bows out of the film at the midway point, and The Girl and White Man may or may not have some sort of romance going on. No points for guessing correctly, because it’s given away in one of the earliest scenes, even if the film wants to hide this.

The A.I. plane is voiced by Wentworth Miller and is named EDI. They call it “Tin Man,” a name it decides to adopt. It’s kind of sad that EDI has more personality than any of the humans in this film. At the point it turned on its human overlords, I was cheering for it. “Get them humans,” I said completely unironically. The A.I. is moderately funny and actually intelligent, which plays in direct opposition to … everything else in this film, actually.

Stealth is a movie which throws technical jargon left and right, leaving the vast majority of it unexplained, but then feels the need to pause and tell the audience — primarily the 6-year-olds who are still paying attention by this point — exactly what a prime number is. I’m not joking. The film has Jamie Foxx go into some monologue about how three is a good number of people because it’s a prime number, and then it forces him to explain exactly what a prime number is.

Considering the three leads are the top fighter pilots in the world, you might expect there to be more than ten minutes of aerial combat in Stealth. You might be disappointed. I didn’t time it, but if the amount of aerial scenes added up to more than ten minutes — and that’s pushing it — I’d be very surprised. There’s lots of flying, sure, but not too much combat. The first couple of missions are completed so efficiently that there’s little combat involved, and the later action goes by so quickly that you don’t get to savor any of it.

To be sure, this is a really, really good looking film. The special effects are great, Dean Semler’s cinematography is excellent, and the few action scenes are staged quiet well. But that’s all that Stealth has going for it. It’s dumb as bricks, has a complete lack of genuine characters, disregards its own rules and logic — as well as the laws of physics, biology, chemistry, and any other branch of science and math — and has no sense of humor, even though it likes to think it does.

Oh, and if you thought you’d get through a movie like this one without some sort of government/military conspiracy plot — which makes no sense and gets such little explanation or focus that it really should have just been cut — you’re also going to be a touch upset. Of course we have one of those. Why would a high-ranking military officer not be corrupt? And why wouldn’t another member of the government also be corrupt? I don’t know because the film never explains it, save for the oft-used crutch of “money.”

None of the actors do anything in this film but show up to collect a paycheck. The special effects could have been the focus but the film doesn’t want to spent much time on them, either. And it’s not like this is a 90-minute adrenaline shot; it plays for just over two hours, and it feels like it’s double that. It’s painfully long and far duller than a movie with this premise was. It feels insulting to the intelligence as it plays and I can’t shake the feeling that it could have been a great film, based solely on its key idea.

Stealth works on paper but what was produced here is such a worthless film that you shouldn’t even consider watching it. It’s a brainless, joyless, and surprisingly dull movie. It doesn’t have a lot of action, its actors sleep through the whole thing, it’s stupid beyond belief, and while it looks great, that’s the only point in its favor. Go re-watch 2001: A Space Odyssey and you’ve spent your time far more intelligently than if you were to sit through Stealth. That is, unless you aren’t quite clear on the “prime number” concept. Then, maybe, Stealth is worth seeing.

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