The first draft of this script probably went like this: “K.I.T.T. abandons his Trans-Am (and Michael Knight) for a high-tech jet fighter and attends the Top Gun air combat school. Soon after, this entire concept is jettisoned for a sequel to Behind Enemy Lines, only this time with a hot chick as the unlucky downed pilot.”
Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Lt. Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and Lt. Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx) are the best of the best US Navy pilots, each hand-selected to pilot a top secret prototype fighter giving them unrivaled air combat superiority. It turns out, however, that the program has an ulterior motive when Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard) reveals a fourth pilot: an artificially-intelligent robot drone affectionately named “Eddy.” Faster than you can say “HAL 2000,” something goes wrong with the smarter/faster drone and puts all our human heroes (and their love interests) in jeopardy.
Wasn’t it Stan Lee that said, “With great special effects comes great responsibility?” Okay, while not exactly correct, but it should be. Stealth makes the same mistake that the original Tomb Raider movie made: the final sequence of your special-effects laden film shouldn’t look worse than your second act. Worse yet, it never helps to look like you ran out of ideas and/or money to finish your film with.
Director Rob Cohen knows how to start an action flick with a bang, but the script issues start cropping up when the action stops just long enough to show Jessica Biel in a bikini for a five seconds in Thailand. Huh? Add in the mandatory conspiracy theories, secret files, and shady characters that appear from the void of the screenwriter’s imagination just long enough to die horribly, and then end everything as if it never happened? It seems no one can make up their mind what Stealth is supposed to be. A dark warning of the future? An espionage thriller? A love story? An action flick? An escape mission? All of these ideas and more are poured into a mold, but nothing gels together.
Good thing Jamie Foxx had all this in the can before his award-winning performances were recognized; the most talent he’s permitted to display in Stealth is his impersonation of a future celebrity. Jessica Biel has the worst job in the cast, spending half the film as emotionless eye candy and second half showing off her athleticism running for her life (in spandex pajamas, no less). Josh Lucas gets to be the hero but mostly just looks smug about it between outbursts of anger and demonstrates zero chemistry with the aforementioned Ms. Biel.
Overall, the film advertised is not what you get. Any drama generated by the unfolding events is crushed beneath lines like, “Get your head together and do your job!” which is our cue for, “Don’t expect us to revisit the ramifications of what we just did ’cause we’re not done destroying your reality yet.” Ultimately, Stealth is a chocolate-coated mothball, tasty enough on the outside but unsafe to swallow (and even one can be toxic).
(a one and a half skull recommendation out of four)