Kicking off “Total Recall” week looking at one of Jessica Biel’s earlier action movies.
“Stealth” is an appropriate title for this summer movie as it sneaks up on you and turns into a good movie without you noticing.
Set in 2016,” Naval Air Force pilots Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas, “Around the Bend”), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel, “Blade: Trinity”) and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx, “Ray”) fly the new high-end model jet to help defend the free world against terrorists. Seems to ask a bit out of three people, no?
Along with their commanding officer, Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard, “Don’t Come Knocking”) the trio are assigned to an aircraft carrier where they meet the new member of their squad – an artificial intelligence program named Eddie.
The squad isn’t sure what to make of their non-co-pilot, who tries to win them over by showing off his own fancy moves and downloading all the songs from the Internet to play as theme music.
The first hour is oh-so full of pilot-film cliches. Ben and Henry haven’t met a woman they can’t get to bed, Kara pines for the bad boy rebel Ben, Ben is anti-authority. And now Ben feels threatened by the new addition to the team. [2012 FF: Yep, that seems to be just about every cliche possible].
Director Rob Cohen (“xXx”) covers the bare minimum needed to flesh out his characters before getting back to his true priority – showing off the jets.
His special effects team does a solid job of putting the viewer through the twists and turns of the jets as if they were the ones piloting them so even while the man vs. machine theme is familiar, the action scenes make up for the story’s early deficiencies.
It isn’t until the trio are called back from their furlough from Thailand [2012 FF: Bangkok's got them now...] that the pace intensifies and the film gets the kick in the afterburners it needs to be more than a generic “Top Gun” rip-off. There seems little reason for the tropical vacation other than to show Biel parade in a bikini. [2012 FF: And the problem with that is.....?]
Cummings ignores the squad’s concerns that Eddie doesn’t have the human instincts to make moral judgements. Predictably, Eddie rebels and the squad has to take him down. But Cummings becomes the film’s de facto villain as he works against the team in order to get the expensive prototype back to the carrier in one piece.
I’m still trying to figure out why Foxx went from an awesome 2004 where he was Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Collateral” and won Best Actor for “Ray,” why he was fine taking the best friend/sidekick role when he was clearly ready for leading man status?
Ironically, it isn’t until Cohen exhausts the jet fights and W.D. Richter’s (“Home for the Holidays”) script is brought to the forefront that “Stealth” escapes its numerous cliches by focusing more on the characters and less on the showy air battles.
“Stealth” is the definition of “summer movie entertainment.” You won’t need to devote any thought to it other than to sit back an enjoy the excitement while it lasts. In that regard, “Stealth” hits the target dead on.
2012 FF: I’ve got a soft spot for “Stealth,” since this is one of the movies that quoted my initial review of it. I’m sure for some critics that’s just the norm, but at least for me, that’s still pretty cool. I was one of the few who did like it though as “Stealth” was a major bomb and only made back $76 million of its $135 million budget. At least “Battleship” made some money. And while I liked it enough at the time, I’ve had little desire to re-watch it. So that says a lot…
[Original Rating 7 out of 10]
2012 Film Flashback Rating: 3 of 10