Stealth - Directed by Rob Cohen, screenplay by W. D. Richter and Rob Cohen with no relationship to any previous movie or book.
** Spoiler Alert **
Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx play slightly futuristic ‘Top Gun’ navy pilots, flying some state of the art hypersonic stealth aircraft. They do fancy flying (at least it looks fancy on the screen) and blow things up. Which pretty much sums up the movie.
I cheerfully admit going to movies sometimes for the sheer joy of wondering just how the movie is going to crash and burn... like NASCAR fans, a little fire and bits and pieces flying into the air certainly does add a little spice to what you’re doing. Besides, that's about all a movie like this has to offer, right?
Thus it was that a third of the way into this movie, when we’re still getting to know the characters, that I was pleasantly surprised the movie was taut, well written with plausible characters and an interesting plot.
Alas, then the screenwriters decided to show us their knowledge of geography... and like most Americans, they don’t have any. Plausible plots are for plodding wimps! Characterization? Why bother, everyone is going to be watching Jessica Biel in her bathing bikini, and no one is going to wonder why three American pilots are sitting with an unknown Thai woman at a restaurant in Thailand discussing top secret mission details in front of her. And it gets worse and worse, and then when you can’t believe it could possibly get worse, it just shows you how little you know! Oh, and to make life interesting, there’s now a fourth “wingman”, named “Eddie” who is a quantum computer Artificial Intelligence.
If you thought I was mildly anal about the geography in the movie “Sahara”, well, this time I just go berserk!
They are off flying in the Philippine Sea on a training mission with their cybernetic sidekick when “new tasking” is received. Terrorists have been spotted in Rangoon, Myanmar by human intelligence sources, and they are ordered to divert and bomb them flat. I could ignore the idea of humint sources in Myanmar (about as likely as humint sources on pre-invasion Mars), but really. Fly to Rangoon from the Philippine Sea?
For those who are geographically challenged but not afraid to admit it, the Philippine Sea is to the northeast of the Philippines, up towards Japan and Guam. To get to Myanmar from there you’d either have to fly a *very* long way around, or fly over such staunch American friends as Malaysia, Viet Nam, Laos or Cambodia. And of course, those planes have plenty of fuel for the flight! And everyone takes off on a training mission with a full load of live ordinance!
Sure enough, the Josh Lucas character risks his life to deliver the bomb, using a hypersonic attack straight down on the target, to reduce collateral damage. Leaving out, of course, what the effect the hypersonic shock wave would have, when it hit the ground.
And of course, the A/I aircraft gets hit by lightning as they are landing back aboard their carrier, and instead of destroying the A/I it just gives it something to think about.
Later, they are tasked to fly to Tajikistan, and there bomb some long-range ballistic missiles that terrorists have acquired. Enroute, they learn that the terrorists have some nuclear warheads for the missiles, so forget the missiles and bomb the warheads.
The Jessica Biel character takes out her calculator and announces that the collateral damage risk is too great. Oh yeah, we see that the terrorists are moving the warheads on ox-carts. Anyway, let’s not forget that if Rangoon was a hard target to reach from the Philippine Sea, Tajikistan is that cubed. Did I mention we’d have to over fly a bunch of countries to get there?
The A/I goes nuts, bombs the missiles and the radioactive cloud engulfs the poor villagers and they all choke and die. Leaving out, of course, that while there would be a radioactive cloud, it wouldn’t be visible and while they would probably die, it wouldn’t be for weeks or months.
Our heroes start chasing the A/I, and their boss refuses to order its destruction. The A/I is now enroute to Russia to bomb something else... I believe I heard the target was in Siberia. Jamie Foxx augurs in (I mean that literally) and Jessica’s aircraft gets hit with bits and pieces. Her boss tells her to “fly due south” to return to the carrier.
Okay boys, and girls, how far south do you have to fly from Tajikistan to get to the Philippine Sea? Trick question, because you’d have to fly east to get there. But, not to worry, Jessica’s high tech compass, GPS and other navigation equipment have somehow gone south (without her knowing about it) and her plane comes apart over North Korea.
The movie implausibly has Josh Lucas return to base -- in Alaska. I mean, how many pilots get an order to fly to a base, not on the charts, but trust me, it’ll be there by the time you get there?
Implausible is the name the movie should have had. The first part of the movie is well worth watching, but after Jessica gets dressed after her bikini scene, get up and walk out.
The CGI is good, that’s about it. Instantly Forgettable music.
Attention Hollywood: I know this is kind of passe, but did you know that people actually watch a movie to see the characters interact? They enjoy seeing interesting people doing interesting things. Here's a thought: why not make a movie with characters like that, and just show them flying around, having all those psychological moments, but without actually blowing things up?