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STEALTH

SYNOPSIS:
A squadron of US Naval Air Force elite pilots has been trained to fly the Stealth combat plane. But the three ace fliers, Lt Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx), under the command of Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard), are jerked out of training routine with the latest unmanned combat plane with AI, designed by eccentric genius Keith Orbit (Richard Roxburgh), when its system is damaged and it defies human orders, threatening the safety of civilian populations and invading foreign airspace in pursuit of attack objectives. The pilots have to neutralise the defiant machine before it precipitates a nuclear war. And they also have to deal with a rogue military commander...

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If by stealth we refer to silent and subtle, Stealth is perhaps the most ironic movie title this side of Todd Solondz’s bleak social tragedy, Happiness. It’s also a bit of a con, since there is not much evidence of these Stealth fighter planes being stealthy. But I’m nit picking, since the film isn’t meant to be taken that seriously. In fact, this film is not meant to be taken by us critics at all. It’s a film that will attract a young male audience who couldn’t care less that the whole thing is a simplistic and preposterous video game masquerading as a movie. All the better, in fact. There is even a line in the film from Josh Lucas in which there is just such a reference to war becoming a video game, and for which I’ll give Rob Cohen the benefit of the doubt; he must have meant it to be ironic. The dialogue certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a games console. Some of it is, thankfully, undecipherable, the rest is plain jargon, like when Lt Ben Gannon declares redundantly on one dramatic approach: “My starboard engine’s flamed out … I’m coming in hard…” Whooosh – kabooom ….. kraaaakk….

Noisy and crackling with visual blur to give the impression of constant speed, Stealth reminds me of one recent observation that modern Hollywood action films are becoming boring by the sheer weight of unrelenting excitement. 

The pedal is always to the metal, except for a squirmingly clumsy romantic subplot, and the sci-fi notion of an intelligent fighter plane is badly mishandled. Using a grotesquely feeble vocal reference to Stanley Kubrick’s Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, EDI (an acronym for the hopelessly plastic, made up name, extreme deep invader) is never quite the baddie he/it wants to be, and when it’s replaced by a human baddie, we’re a bit flummoxed by the turn of events.

The screenplay jams together a number of elements in an attempt to maintain tension (at the expense of credibility) and relies on the high quality digital FX (created at Sydney’s Animal Logic) to carry the film on every level. Excellent technically but bankrupt creatively, Stealth (shot at Fox Studios in Sydney) gave work to Australian facilities and a few local actors, including John Waters who turns up for a cameo near the end, which was welcome for them all. But it is of strictly limited appeal.

Review by Louise Keller:

There is no shortage of special effects in this plastic Hollywood actioner whose appeal is limited to undiscerning teenage boys dreaming of becoming a jet-fighter pilot. The plot is about a super high-tech stealth plane with a mind of its own and has more going for it than the one-dimensional characters. They’re as slick as the planes they fly – Top Guns, who joke a lot, have an easy rapport and are easy on the eye. They even drink martinis the night before they fly. But there’s competition when EDI (Extreme Deep Invader), the stealth jet that thinks for itself jets in, and suddenly it is clear that EDI has a mind of its own. This results in a top-secret mission that goes wrong, an ejecting parachute that catches on fire and falls into hostile North Korea, and conspiracy at the highest level.

The cast does everything that’s required of them and the unspoken romance between Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel is well implied, if predictable. Jamie Foxx is wasted as one of the chosen three, but Sam Shepard has substance as their commander in chief. I did like Richard Roxburgh though, whose brilliant stealth creator - aptly named Keith Orbit - comes across as an intriguing, if under-developed character. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the talked-about Megan Gale walk-on, as Orbit’s curvaceous secretary.

Creatively as arid as the barren Australian desert, Stealth is far too long at 2 hours, despite excellent special effects by our own Animal Logic, who at least will keep some video-game hungry fans absorbed.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

THE SFX WORKSHOP

STEALTH (M)
(US, 2005)

CAST: Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shepard, Richard Roxburgh, Joe Morton, Ian Bliss, Ebon Boss-Bachrach

PRODUCER: Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Neal Moritz, Laura Ziskin

DIRECTOR: Rob Cohen

SCRIPT: W.D. Richter

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Semler

EDITOR: Stephen Rivkin

MUSIC: BT

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jonathan Lee, J. Michael Riva

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 8, 2005

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: January 25, 2006

UPCOMING EVENT
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney.

Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.







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