Remember the immortal computer H.A.L. in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Well, his nearest relative has just been located. The latest member of the U.S. Navy, UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) is a futuristic robotic plane. Flying with three other highly classified stealth-fighter jets, referred to as "Talons" and piloted by human beings, it is part of an experimental defense team the government hopes to employ in the battle against terrorist threats.
However, the seasoned squadron members, made up of Ben (Josh Lucas), Kara (Jessica Biel), and Henry (Jamie Foxx), aren't nearly as excited about their computerized comrade as their C.O., Captain George Cummings (Sam Shepard). Although he sees the drone (which is given the nickname "EDI" -- pronounced Eddie) as the perfect solution to eliminating many of the dangers of war, the trio wonders if the human element is removed, what incentive will there be to stop the fighting? They muse that while "EDI" may save military personnel in the air, what about civilians on the ground?
Pushing ahead, Cummings orders the foursome to engage in their first mission. The outcome is a rousing success until "EDI" is hit by lightening on the way back to their aircraft carrier. A little rewiring and solder brings his erratic behavior under control, and the commanding officer declares "EDI" ready for service, despite the live crew's increased reservations.
The gang's next assignment is to defeat a renegade warlord who has a couple of nuclear missiles hidden in a remote Chinese area. After ascertaining the probable risks to the local citizens, Ben decides it isn't worth exploding the nukes. Aborting the mission, he and his flesh companions turn for home base, but "EDI" thinks otherwise. With the flying robot determined to execute Captain Cumming's orders, Ben and the others are left with the task of stopping a possible Armageddon.
This action piece offers audiences a steady dose of adrenaline with its many "near miss" scenarios and high-tension moments. Director Rob Cohen, who also helmed xXx, is obviously no stranger to movies featuring big bangs and bombs. Here he does a remarkable job integrating these imaginary aircraft into "reality" by using a sophisticated gimbal (a complex, hydraulic platform that elevates and rotates) and new computer imagery techniques to create the many scenic backgrounds. (For those prone to motion sickness, you may wish he had included a tripod for the camera in his budget.)
This heady excitement will likely make Stealth a poor choice for preteen audiences, even though the violence falls short of being explicit or particularly bloody. Other concerns include dialogue with a number of profanities and a single use of "the" sexual expletive, along with some brief sexual innuendoes. As well, our Navy heroes suffer with a few characteristics that may not make them honorable role models. "Drink, don't think," says Ben during some r-and-r at the bar. Later, Henry prides himself on having a woman at every stop, and it's strongly implied that he has slept with females around the world.
On the positive side, the film has the potential to initiate good conversation about the pros and cons of robotic combat. It shows the "collateral" civilian damage war inflicts, while recognizing the need for technology and weapon refinement to assure more accurate deployment of killing machines. This mix of discussion starters and possibly objectionable content has Stealth walking the borderline between friend or foe for recommended teen viewing.