By Shawn McKenzie 08/02/2005
I haven’t been too impressed with director Rob Cohen. Looking back at his filmography shows that he started out promising, but went sour from there. Fortunately, Stealth is better than his last couple of films were.
In the near future, the Navy is concerned about collateral damage in the war on global terrorism. They have reduced their Talon fighter squad to just the three best pilots: Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas) and his wingmen Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx.) Ben and Henry are ladies’ men, but Ben secretly loves Kara (and vice versa with Ben), while Henry is just a player, like his brief fling with a girl he met in Thailand (Jaypetch Toonchalong.) Their commanding officer, Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard), adds another wingman though…a pilot named “Eddie.” The trio meets Eddie for the first time on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in the Philippine Sea. It’s there that they find out that “Eddie” is actually an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), and the real name comes from the model type, a prototype of a computer driven aircraft known as EDI (Extreme Deep Invader; voiced by Wentworth Miller.) EDI was developed by a scientist from Seattle named Keith Orbit (Richard Roxburgh) to undertake missions that are a little too dangerous for human pilots. In Cummings’ mind, he didn’t want to see any pilots going home in body bags if they could possibly avoid it. Capt. Dick Marshfield (Joe Morton) disagrees with Cummings, and thinks that they are headed for trouble. That is the same sentiment from both Ben and Kara, but Henry thinks that EDI is a good addition. They take EDI, whom Ben has nicknamed Tin Man, on its first mission, which is to take out a terrorist cell in Rangoon, Myanmar. They pull it off, but during the trip back home, EDI is struck by lightning. The technician, Josh Hudson (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), is concerned that EDI has some wires crossed, and that it has taken on a mind of its own (also, it has illegally downloaded a large library of songs, especially Incubus songs.) Cummings has the trio go for some R & R, where he consults with his shady financial backer known only as “Ray” (David Andrews), but when they come back for their second mission with EDI, the trio is ordered to take out a shipment of nukes traveling to a farming village in Tajikistan. Kara estimates that the radioactive fallout would end up in too many civilian casualties and recommends that they abort the mission. Ben agrees, but before they can do that, EDI defies orders and goes ahead with the mission, resulting in a giant nuclear cloud on the village. It then proceeds to take out other targets in Russia and North Korea, and they have to shoot it down. If they fail, it could lead to an international crisis.
Cohen’s directing career started out in 1980. He directed a drama called A Small Circle of Friends, followed four years later with a comedy called Scandalous (neither of which I have seen.) He directed a few episodes of several TV shows after that, and then directed the biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story in 1993, a movie that I love. In 1996, he did the decent fantasy movie Dragonheart, followed by one of the last really cool Sylvester Stallone flicks, Daylight, that same year. In 1998, he did the Emmy-nominated HBO movie, “The Rat Pack,” followed by the interesting 2000 Joshua Jackson vehicle, The Skulls. It wasn’t until he met up with Vin Diesel that he became an A-list director with 2001’s The Fast and the Furious and 2002’s XXX. They may have been both highly successful in the box office, but for me, I think that they lead to the downfall of Diesel’s critical career. Since this movie didn’t star Diesel, it’s probably why it was slightly better than the two Diesel movies.
That’s not to say that the movie isn’t highly predictable. Not that I want to spoil the movie for you, but with two of the three main characters being in love with each other, it’s not hard to guess which one is going to bite the big one. Fortunately, the performances are believable, including Biel, who has convinced me that she can actually act, at least in horror or action movies like 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and last year’s Blade: Trinity (though they do throw in a gratuitous, but appreciated, bikini scene at a waterfall.) Foxx is entertaining as usual, even though he made the movie before his Oscar kudos in Ray and Collateral last year.
Stealth is a popcorn movie that liberally uses elements of 1986’s Top Gun and 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (for the HAL9000-like voice of EDI), but it has impressive special effects, and it should be worth seeing on the big screen. Where Cohen will go from here is anybody’s guess, but he would be well advised to steer clear of Diesel.
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