Okay. Here we have a movie about a robotic, super-intelligent warplane that can not only pilot itself like an ace, but can learn, evolve, act unilaterally, and generally wreak havoc up to and including nuclear warfare. It’s like Demon Seed — the movie or the Dean Koontz novel, take your pick — on a global scale. This is both a crackerjack plot and a profoundly chilling conceit — with computers doing more and more important work, surely there are some potential real-life doomsday scenarios that resemble something like this at least in broad strokes. And surely Hollywood, with the limitless possibilities of its special effects and its increasingly alarmist tendencies, should be able to make something of it: something scary, relevant, alive. Right?
I would think so, anyway, but I admit that my general faith in Hollywood is probably misguided and misplaced. Rob Cohen’s Stealth is a step toward destroying it. Here we have a movie — as I mentioned — about a robotic, super-intelligent warplane, and at the same we have a movie with a second act that consists of court-martials, generic rescue missions, and people sneaking around with crowbars. Hello? Robotic warplane? Anyone home? What am I watching? Why am I watching this? Someone get me out of here.
The “what the hell am I watching” instinct actually reared its head well before Stealth descends into the utterly ludicrous. We are introduced to our protagonists (three ace pilots selected from a pool of hundreds to be part of a secret, elite strike force) and our conflict (they will be joined by a mysterious “extra wingman,” who of course turns out to be the prodigous robot), following which the characters abruptly go on vacation, and we are treated to an interminable sequence wherein Ben (Josh Lucas), Kara (Jessica Biel) and Henry (Jaime Foxx) frolic in Thailand, complete with Buddhists, fruit, and impossibly painful dialogue. At one point, Henry even meets a lovely Thai girl who doesn’t speak a word of English, and doesn’t neglect to ask her if she can cook. Real nice.
This is, I guess, an attempt to make us identify with the characters, though if I were more cynical I would suggest that it was also a contrived opportunity to show Jessica Biel in a bikini. The latter mission is accomplished, and don’t think we’re not grateful, but the former is a crashing, burning failure, since the characters turn out to be alternately insufferable and non-existent. Eventually, in a completely arbitrary development, there’s a romance between two of them, though not before one rescues the other from — wait for it — North Korea.
The action lets Stealth coast for a while — high-speed dogfights are difficult to film, and Cohen goes about it with a degree of competence, keeping things lucid if never finding any real inspiration. And had W.D. Richter’s screenplay retained a semblance of focus, the film might have held together, the Thai vacation notwithstanding. Two dozen inane complications later, Stealth is just a bore — there’s no other way to say it.
To both its credit and detriment, the movie becomes hilarious in its final scenes: apparently, the filmmakers looked for the worst possible photo of Jamie Foxx they could find and blew it up to fifteen times life-size. You’ll see what I mean. Meanwhile, our heroes kiss and ride off into the sunset despite the fact that their attack on North Korea must mean an imminent NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST. Real nice.