A testosterone-filled jock flick, Stealth is the far-fetched story of three crack-shot Navy pilots and one “extreme deep invader.” What’s that? Well, it’s fancy lingo for a souped-up fighter plane that’s been wired to learn, think and even feel. (HAL, did you hear that?).
The plot “twist” everyone will see coming (and was given away in the film's high-octane trailers long before it premiered) is that the super-smart plane—called “EDI”—stops following orders and develops a mind of its own. This leads us down an aerial path of big bangs, bigger egos (even EDI suffers from one) and oodles of oft-used stunt sequences.
The camaraderie among the trio of pilots is admirable—they work as a team and are willing to risk their own well-being to protect their partners (sound familiar?). Though part of their job is going to battle—and often claiming lives—they make notable efforts to limit civilian casualties. Amid a forbidden romance between lieutenants Ben Gannon and Kara Wade (Jessica Biel as the token female pilot) Ben exhibits self-restraint and respect for authority. Though he knows Kara reciprocates his feelings, he prevents their relationship from progressing, showing he loves her enough to ensure she doesn’t ruin her career by breaking the rules.
Thai citizens bow down in a Buddhist temple. A Navy funeral references God’s presence. When talking about the special relationship the pilots have, Lt. Henry Purcell says three is a lucky number, and naming off things that come in threes he mentions the Holy Trinity. ...
His pal, Ben, makes sure he includes ménage à trois in the list.
A self-proclaimed womanizer, Henry has a lady on his arm whenever there’s a free moment. He's full of sexual one-liners, and his verbal banter includes a reference to oral sex.
When Henry's alone in his cabin, he struts around shirtless, pretending paparazzi are trying to take his photo. In Thailand, he anchors onto the first woman he encounters—eager to pursue a physical relationship with her, asking, “I fly jets. Do you like to go fast?” (Of course, that statement means little to the woman—who doesn’t speak English—but that doesn’t stop the pair from ending up "back at her place.") When the subject of morality comes up, Henry jokes that he's far from moral, and should, in fact, be arrested for the thoughts he has.
Though Ben’s actions show a seemingly sincere love for Kara, he, too, likes to hunt for female targets at bars. As he’s leaving a nightclub with a scantily-clad blonde he’s been making out with, Kara catches his eye and mouths, “Have fun.”
The camera scans bodies dancing in a nightclub, going in for extreme close-ups of cleavage and short skirts. When Ben visits Kara in her room, we see her undergarments hanging on a clothesline at eye level (“Excuse my C-cup,” she says). Kara is seen in her underwear, and wearing a revealing bikini. (A shirtless Ben accompanies her as they frolic in a mountain stream.) When she's shot down in enemy territory, Kara traipses through the forest not in her bulky (protective) flight gear, but in a tight tank top and clingy, low-rise pants.
Viewers are confronted with an abundance of violence, but its mostly of the big-bang variety, not the blood-and-gore type. Bullets fly, missiles launch, buildings implode, tanks full of jet fuel ignite—and when they do, there’s usually an enormous orange blast that follows.
The filmmakers slow down the action to make sure we catch every terrifying detail as a jet crashes into the side of a mountain, claiming a pilot’s life. When Kara must eject from her malfunctioning plane—just before it explodes—flaming debris falls around her, striking her and setting her parachute ablaze. Stranded in North Korea, she exchanges fire with hostile soldiers and is eventually hit. (Blood begins creeping into the frame during the climactic scenes; it spurts when Kara's arm is hit, it covers parts of her face and Ben's face, and it's seen on some of the enemy soldiers.) When EDI shoots missiles through a hangar door, a massive explosion sends bodies flying at the audience.
Nuclear warheads are destroyed with missiles. In the aftermath, a dark, radioactive cloud envelopes nearby villages.
We see a naval officer pull out a gun, and the subsequent blast suggests he’s taken his own life. Ben wrestles with a “doctor” who is trying to give him a lethal injection. In the end, Ben gets the needle turned around and stabs the man with it, presumably killing him.
Crude or Profane Language
God’s and Jesus’ names are misused about six times. The s-word gets off the ground a dozen times. The f-word once. Milder profanity brings the tally to approximately 40. While Ben is taking a picture of her, Kara flashes both of her middle fingers.
Drug and Alcohol Content
When they’re not flying, the pilots seem to spend most of their time at bars drinking martinis. In unison, they chant, “Don’t think, drink!” Several officers smoke cigars.
Other Negative Elements
Among the movie’s chief undertones is that rule-breaking leads to accomplishment. When Ben ignores direct orders to stand down, the result is complete success. His punishment? A wry smile from his commanding officer and an exclamation of, "Same ol' Ben!" EDI takes a page from Ben’s book and shuns all authority, yet in the end, he/it, too, is vindicated and glorified.
Sometimes Hollywood takes a hit film and does the cinematic equivalent of propping it up in front of a funhouse mirror. Stealth, for example, is what happens when Top Gun takes a stroll through the amusement park and stops to gaze into that tall, wavy glass—you know, the one that completely distorts everything and makes us all chuckle.
The only problem is, you can't laugh with this movie, you can only laugh at it. And while that can sometimes be fun, vulgarity, senseless violence and a sexed-up script quickly put an end to even that jaded "joy."