A sort of retarded Top Gun, Rob Cohen's Stealth revisits the world of cocky fighter pilots and war games turned real, but it has some serious moral quandaries on the brain, and too much thinking gets it into trouble. The script was written by cult favorite W.D. Richter, whose offbeat, distinctive credits include the scripts for Big Trouble In Little China and 1978's Invasion Of The Body Snatchers; he also produced and directed The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai. It would probably be instructive to find out what happened to Richter's work once it landed in the hands of The Fast And The Furious and XXX director Rob Cohen, whose need for speed has long trumped the need for a shred of credibility. With Richter and Cohen presumably operating at cross purposes, Stealth morphs into a supremely silly high-tech thriller that juxtaposes mindless destruction with sobering lessons gleaned from thoughtful movies like Fail-Safe and 2001: A Space Odyssey. When one conscientious pilot laments about war being reduced to a video game, the Irony-O-Meter spikes clear off the charts.
And speaking of irony, there's a shortage of honesty aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, where naval captain Sam Shepard has rushed a computer-controlled stealth fighter plane to operational status well ahead of schedule. Nicknamed "Eddie," the plane can carry out missions with breathtaking precision, perform aerial maneuvers that the human body could never withstand, and download all its favorite Incubus songs off the Internet. Considered the perfect weapon for the terrorist age, when satellite technology allows for quick, surgical strikes from above, Eddie draws immediate suspicion from a trio of ace young pilots, played by Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, and Jamie Foxx. Signs of trouble appear in their first mission to Rangoon, where Eddie reveals a bit of a rebellious streak, but its circuits aren't rewired for evil until the lightning storm hits. Then it's up to the three mortal pilots to stop the plane before it drops a substantial nuclear payload.
But first, there's a weird interlude in Thailand, where the action grinds to a halt in order to get some character work underway, like establishing the romantic tension between Lucas and Biel by having them cavort around a waterfall in swimsuits. Meanwhile, back aboard the aircraft carrier, Eddie's hijinks have led the United States into all sorts of terrible confrontations with the likes of Tajikistan, Russia, North Korea, and common sense. Stealth contains an awful lot of talk about the dangerous remove of modern combat, and the moral consequences of raining death from above, but it's hard to take all that seriously when Cohen is cranking up the nü-metal and choreographing one international incident after another. If the U.S. were truly inflicting that much damage around the globe, then other nations would really hate us. Oh wait…