Worth A Look: 3.45%
Just Average: 8.05%
Pretty Crappy: 32.18%
9 reviews, 33 user ratings
by Erik Childress
Those who jumped on Steven Spielberg for “exploiting” the tragedy of 9/11 for entertainment in War of the Worlds need to take a step back, punch themselves in the face and then take another three steps back after they witness Rob Cohen’s Stealth in all its jingoistic hellfire of idiocy. How filmmakers get away with making such nonsense and then justifying it with labels of “science-fact” have me wondering whether I’ll die from an ulcer full of laughter or fury first. I’m certainly not suggesting anyone go see Stealth just to have a dozen solid unintentional chuckles, but anyone blind enough not to notice xenophobia over brainless pyrotechnics should be prepared that the action is just as hilarious.Simplifying that our country’s fate may be in the hands of Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx may be a bit insulting to three actors who clearly have greater talents than this film would show. (Although we’ll get to Thailand in a minute.) In many respects, the whole production feels like something rediscovered on a shelf and reissued at a time when its stars had already gone on to greater successes. Giving the film the benefit of the doubt, their characters, Ben Gannon (Lucas), Kara Wade (Biel) and Henry Purcell (Foxx) are proverbially the greatest fighter pilots in the world and have daily access to trillions of taxpayer-funded hardware.
"Rob Cohen Has Officially Killed More Brain Cells Than Drugs & Alcohol"
Into their little circle of friends comes “a fourth wingman”. Using the math of language, if there are originally three of them, shouldn’t it technically be a THIRD wingman since how can you be your own wingman? (Unless you’re constantly screwing yourself.) This seventh wingman (what the hell, right?) is actually a self-piloting contraption thanks to the smart computer in the cockpit named Eddie(!) Unlike D.A.R.Y.L., W.O.P.R. (“Whopper”) or Josh & S.A.M., Eddie can’t be bothered to have an acronym because it only stands for Truth, Justice and the American Way. It learns as it goes along the job (and isn’t that comforting?) and quite understandably, the three amigos question the logic of sending a machine to do a man (or woman’s) job before they stopped to realize what film they were in.
Oh yeah, its one where Sam Shepard is the one spearheading this operation (and isn’t THAT comforting?) Before Sam heads off to do his next film with Liam Neeson, Mentor & Commander (narrated by Morgan Freeman, of course), he’s the questionable authority figure who you know is going to go to any length to protect the investment he has in his career. “What I’m I supposed to tell all the weeping mothers that we could have got the job done without sacrificing their sons and daughters but we decided not to,” says Shepard’s Capt. George Cummings? “We have things those computers can never have like instincts and feelings, moral judgments,” responds Ben. This is what is known to savvy moviegoers as the Project X debate and with lines like “I just don’t think war should become some kind of video game,” we should be half-expecting a Matthew Broderick cameo.
The plot mechanics naturally put on the brakes and fly right past logic into the “technology run amok” chapter. Eddie gets struck by lightning, develops a first person vernacular (sounding like a cross between the mooninites from Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the parting voice from AOL) and proceeds to reenact the last 40 minutes of Deal of the Century. Those may be obscure references, but you’ll have no trouble picking out the obvious relation to HAL 9000. And just in case those of you have forgotten one of the all-time classic villains in film history, Mr. Cohen will remind you. Because when Rob-O does homage he doesn’t just wink at you – he winks, nudges, pokes, stomps your foot, kicks your leg, cups your crotch and punches you in the eye. It’s one thing to shamlessly ripoff the eavesdropping scene from 2001 – BUT TO DO IT TWICE!?
With a computerized war machine on the loose looking to carry out orders without a second thought, the film manages to bring the United States in just a few days time in conflict with our Top Three All-Time Baddie Countrymen (the Russians, Middle Easterns and North Korea.) The most striking aspect of all these missions are not the targets or the explosions which follow, but how UN-Stealthy they actually are. It’s a bit hard to create and cat-and-mouse game in the sky without the use of Dolby 12.1, since Stealth planes sneaking up on each other would just be silly (and this film is never about the silly. COUGH!) But at the barest minimum for covert tactics realism, should the planes actually be flying down city streets and grazing buildings?
Stealth’s absurdity continues to reach the stratosphere with the thud of a sonic boom. When Lucas gets into a dogfight with the Russians, it looks like a scene out of Hot Shots or Team America. It contains THE funniest death scene I’ve seen in years, a slow-motion “whoops” that in the end warrants such a melodic requiem (also used for a non-human demise) that you wish someone at the funeral would start shouting “HEEEYYYYY...HOOOOOOOO!!!”. If the thinly-veiled metaphor of warmongering prick-waving isn’t enough for you, wait until Eddie literally tries to rape a fuel plane (complete with a female voice) denying him access. When one character is informed he is being arrested, he asks if he can have a minute alone. AND IT’S GRANTED! No hurry on your court martial. Do you want a sandwich to go along with your gun? If you’re one of the Top Gun fans who felt Goose didn’t go with much dignity, wait until you see Jessica Biel’s ejection. It goes on for several minutes, spinning down with debris as she screams without interruption:
“I’M GOING TO EJECT”
“IT’S ALL AROUND”
“THERE’S FIERY DEBRIS”
“MY CHUTE’S ON FIRE”
“MY CHUTE’S ON FIRE”
“I CAN’T OPEN MY CHUTE”
“I’M FALLING AND THERE’S FIRE”
“ON MY CHUTE”
“I’M BURNING UP”
“I’M AT 6000 FEET”
“I’M AT 5000 FEET”
“I’M AT 3500 FEET”
All we needed is the controller from Airplane to shout out – “What an asshole!” This is a film where the U.S. actually is put into a position to go to war with North Korea over Jessica Biel. OK, that one I can buy cause she’s probably worth it. Especially after the film takes a coffee break to Thailand 40 minutes in to give Biel (and the audience) some well-deserved bikini time. Did I mention Cohen is a genius?Of course not! Because this is a film which would be an insult to the Iron Eagle saga. There’s a vast difference between exploiting and exploring the aftermath of 9/11 and Cohen & screenwriter W.D. Richter (where has HE been?) couldn’t be bothered to endanger their own countrymen, but instead collapse buildings in downtown Middle East and radiate Russian farmers. Like the climate of politics, we can’t decide whether to laugh at the farcical inconsistencies or to get violently angry at what dopes we are taken for. That’s how you’ll feel when a bond is struck over the simplicity of giving one’s “word.” “If it’s controlled by moral people then it will be moral,” says Biel – unaware that the man authorizing the Eddie project is played by David Andrews, who you may remember also played the military leader that put the rebellious Skynet computer online in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. I couldn’t rightfully accuse Rob Cohen of somehow being immoral in making a film like Stealth, but after this, XXX, The Fast & The Furious and The Skulls – the collateral damage is just too much to bear.
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originally posted: 07/31/05 15:44:57