Monday, 3 December 2007

Stealth



STEALTH (2005)
 
Directed by: Rob Cohen     
Written by: W.D. Richter
Starring: Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jaime Foxx and Sam Shepard.
 
In the not too distant future, the U.S. Air Force has an elite strike team headed by pilots Gannon (Lucas), Wade (Biel) and Purcell (Foxx). The best of the best, these three uber-flyers pilot sophisticated, hi-tech Stealth planes on deadly missions all around the globe. So it comes as a surprise when they are joined by a fourth wingman: a completely computerized Stealth plane flown by a 2001 Hal type artificial intelligence (called EDI or Tinman or something). Gannon is sceptical, believing he will be replaced by a bunch of microchips and that war shouldn’t be reduced to some kind of video game. Captain Cummings(!?) (Shepard) thinks otherwise and insists the robot plane accompanies the team on missions. But when the new plane is struck by lightening and develops a mind of its own, all hell breaks loose and the air-jockeys find themselves in pursuit of the renegade Stealth.



Not being a fan of Rob Cohen’s prevous two action blockbusters, The Fast And The Furious (utter cheese) and XXX (good action scenes, shame about the extreme athlete/dude bollocks), I wasn’t expecting Stealth to be all that great. However, and maybe its just cause I’m a sucker for over-the-top action flicks, Stealth was a pleasant surprise. Firstly, the visual effects are nowhere near as bad as the trailer would suggest, though the planes never really look real they work within the films sci-fi trappings. CGI is overused a little (an extremely bad shot of planes landing on a ship at night highlights this) but it works for the most part. Cohen and his effects team have managed to create a series of adrenaline fuelled action/flight sequences that are thrilling to watch (though some may find them cut too fast). Planes swoop over one another; the camera flies back and forth over the cockpits; and a mid-air refuelling that goes terribly wrong, and a dazzling flight ejection sequence show what a capable action director Cohen can be. I’m not necessarily an advocate of CGI, but if used right it can be effective. There is an onslaught of it at times (seriously we don’t need any more shots that zoom inside a vehicle or contraption to show all the pistons pistoning and cogs cogging), but it manages to stay the right side of a Van Helsing crapfest. In fact, the final act eschews all the highflying CGI for more gritty ground-based warfare.



The cast perform admirably with the material given. Lucas (Wonderland) is an intelligent, if cocky, hero bringing a bit more edge to what could have been a bland hero type. Sam Shepard (Thunderheart) is gruff and tough as Captain Cummings and it’s either kinda novel or worrying to see a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright in a big action blockbuster. Biel (Blade 3) is particularly effective in her on-the-run scenes (if reduced to the damsel in distress) in the latter part of the film but will most likely be remembered for her bikini scenes. Only Foxx comes off bad as the token comedy black guy who has expendable written all over him.



Though foremost a whiz-bang actioneer, there are a few scenes which ponder on the ramifications of war and the role the computer plays in it, that give the film a bit more depth compared to all the explosions (which I will get to in a minute). However, these are pretty much proved redundant with the filmmakers taking the stance that all bad guys must be either Russian, Korean or of middle-eastern descent. Yes, the good guys are the Americans and the bad guys are your standard AK-47 toting, “We hate America” goons. The film also panders to every demographic going. We’ve got the white hero; the chick that fancies him; bad pseudo rock songs for the teenagers; and of course the comedy minority. It is a shame most films are made for teenagers these days, as Stealth would have benefited from having a bit more grit, bumping it up to a 15 certificate instead of the tamer 12A.
           
Yet at the end of the day and if you can get past the bad stereotyping, Stealth is a whole lot of fun. Exciting, intense and action packed, it’s a straightforward blockbuster that does exactly what it says on the tin. It also features some of the biggest and best explosions ever seen on the big screen and if that isn’t an incentive to see it, then I don’t know what is.

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