Stealth Review

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The prototype of an unmanned, artificially intelligent jet fighter goes kerflooey and, like a kamikaze HAL 900, sets out to single-handedly instigate World War III. Only a trio of elite US Navy pilots can save the day…


Anyone familiar with Rob Cohen’s oeuvre will be aware that subtlety is not his strong suit. Even so, the director of such cinematic mayhem as The Fast And The Furious and xXx blows his wad in spectacular fashion with this face-melting ode to fly-boy braggadocio and supercool killing machines.

Lending its title an air of supposedly unintentional irony, Stealth is an orgy of pyrotechnic overkill, fetishised military hardware and mind-boggling special effects, employed most ardently in scene after scene of aerial combat so dazzlingly kinetic they make Top Gun(to which this owes not only a debt of gratitude but dinner and a show) look like a day out with the Wright brothers.

The plot concerns a trio of elite and insufferably smug US Navy fighter pilots (Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx) whose new wing-man is a robo-brained stealth fighter, or UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), named EDI (Extreme Deep Invader), the latest, and by a wide margin the sexiest, weapon yet in the war on terror.

It takes place at an unspecified time in the near future. And if you think it a little far-fetched to imagine the Pentagon spending billions of dollars on a new hypersonic jet fighter, an outmoded Cold War relic of no use whatsoever against an enemy who, we have recently been tragically reminded, doesn’t exactly operate out in the open with hi-tech modern weaponry, think again. Cohen was inspired by the fact that the US military has unmanned planes in operation and is spending vast sums of money developing more sophisticated models (that military-industrial complex, don’tcha just love it?).

This would seem to raise all sorts of interesting questions. But while there is the odd moment of ethical introspection and even a greetings-card platitude or two on the moral implications of war itself (especially after EDI is struck by lightning and develops a predictably alarming mind of its own), the philosophical pondering neither distracts from the blowing shit up nor drowns out the subsonic crowing over America’s ability to kick the world’s ass.

On one level, Stealth is technically breathtaking, viscerally thrilling action cinema of the highest order. On another, it is slavering, state-of-the-art war porn.

Movie of the year if you consider Air Forces Monthly a jazz mag. If, however, the mundane realities of war are in the forefront of your mind, it’s probably best to let this one fly by.