Stealth Movie Review

"Stealth" may be little more than a popcorn-chomping"Top Gun" rehash in which a pilot-less futuristic fighter jethas gone rogue, a la HAL 9000 from "2001: A Space Odyssey" --but it's that little bit more that makes the movie smarter and more ambitiousthan it first appears.

Amid the music-video dogfight sequences (including a trulyspectacular slow-motion crash and a scary pilot-eject at 35,000 feet) andgratuitous shots of requisite hottie Jessica Biel in a bikini, screenwriterW.D. Richter ("Big Trouble in Little China") slips in undercurrentsabout the dangers of win-at-all-costs counter-terrorism and a solid search-and-rescuethird act that has little to do with the crazy runaway plane.

Biel ("Blade:Trinity"), Josh Lucas ("SweetHome Alabama") and Jamie Foxx (contractedto a supporting role before "Ray"put him on Hollywood's A-list) play hot-dogging Navy pilots who make upan elite emergency strike force in ultra-high-tech jets that fly in toblow up terrorists and stolen nuclear warheads on a moment's notice. Thespecifics of these incidents are often off-the-charts ridiculous, and theyget even more so after the team is forced to accept the computerized planeinto their ranks as an experiment. When a lightning strike turns its circuitsinto B-movie bunk ("EDI is war plane. EDI must have targets,"it declares in a menacing monotone), the fight is on to bring the thingdown.

So far, so bad. But as the plot unfurls, there's almostalways something extra in its folds. Director Rob Cohen sets the stagewith satellite shots showing worldwide locations, then zooms in and inand in to catch up with realistic (albeit CGI-generated) canyon-chargingflight sequences jazzed up further with creative editing. He hires greatactors like Sam Shepard and Joe Morton for supporting roles as the pilots'clashing commanders, one of whom knew the dangers of the rogue plane andlet it fly anyway.

The script even allows for a little honest (if overly simplistic)philosophical debate about the civilian casualties and the dehumanizingeffects of turning warfare into a video game...before turning hypocriticalwhen the pilots violate two foreign countries' airspace, then shoot downtheir quite justified defenders.

But the movie's biggest surprise is Biel, who despite beingcast for her looks and curves is credible as a fighter pilot who can holdher own against the guys and retain her femininity. Once the movie getspast her laughable obligatory romance with Lucas (the ostensible hero anda charmingly insubordinate show-off) Biel also gets the best (and mostrealistic) storyline when abandoned by central command after her planeis shot down over North Korea and she crashes to the ground under a burningparachute with enemy soldiers in hot pursuit.

"Stealth" is far more concerned with being coolthan with being smart, so contrivances, plot holes and conspicuous overproductionare constantly pecking away at the movie's defendable assets. But it'sthe only action movie this summer entertaining enough to truly earn check-your-brainstatus. Like "Top Gun," "Stealth" is a plumb guiltypleasure.


Stealth Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, July 29, 2005


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