A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Full of explosions and video game-like fighter jet scenes, STEALTH poses a serious problem beneath its giddy surface. That is, does the escalation of war by technological advances lead to more or fewer human costs? The movie sets off three excellent Talon pilots -- Kara (Jessica Biel), Henry (Jamie Foxx), and Ben (Josh Lucas) -- against their new "wingman," the UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) nicknamed EDI, a newfangled robotic fighter jet. Touted by Captain Cummings (Sam Shepard) as \"the future of digital warfare. EDI is all blinking lights and silky vocals. Once struck by lightning, though, EDI goes off grid, and begins seeking out all sorts of targets, thus threatening to start a world war. Ben and Cummings discuss the uses of robot weapons, Cummings believing that they will reduce "body bags," while Ben (like Kara) thinks the human element of piloting is crucial. During their search for EDI, the three pilots are separated, which makes for multiple action scenes with characters in peril.
Is it any good?
The action bits are predictably well-choreographed and boisterous, but also distracting (yes, even in an action movie, too much of a good thing is still too much). Stealth wants to be a smarter movie than it is, posing the cases for and against technological warfare, tracing foibles not only of individuals within the financing and command systems, but also in the systems themselves. A self-declared post-9/11 action movie, it's mightily conflicted, exhilarating in the visuals and visceral effects, but stubbornly clinging a core idea, that war is actually bad -- for everyone.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the gendered differences between attitudes toward war (the girl pilot is more emphatically moralistic and humanistic than the boys). Also worth considering is the film's framing of war as a series of choices, and how technology can enhance, exacerbate, and (ideally) alleviate human costs. How is the robot pilot's disobedience singular or systemic? How does the film produce viewer pleasure in the battle images, but also ask you to consider the victimization of farmers and other civilians?
- In theaters: July 29, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: November 15, 2005
- Cast: Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, Josh Lucas
- Director: Rob Cohen
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense action, some violence, brief strong language and innuendo
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