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Film / Stealth

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This page is about the movie. See also Stealth Tropes.

Stealth is a 2005 action film directed by Rob Cohen (the guy who did The Fast and the Furious and xXx).

The United States Navy has built three new top-of-the-range fighter jets called F/A-37 Talons. From over 400 applicants, 3 pilots are chosen to fly them; smart hotshot Lieutenant Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas), tomboyish Lieutenant Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), and street-wise, philosophical Lieutenant Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx). When the three are flown out to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Philippine Sea where the jets are, they learn the navy's developed a fourth jet; unmanned artificial intelligence "EDI" (voiced by Wentworth Miller) (Extreme Deep Invader, no relation to that EDI).

The pilots are to take EDI out on a mission and train it. While they're at it, debate rages amongst commanders about whether it's ethical to use artificial intelligences in war, given that although a computer is not subject to the physical limitations of a human pilot and can calculate strategies more quickly; they likewise possess no sense of morality. At least; theoretically... can you guess where this is leading? And indeed, sure enough, with the mission a success, on the way back, EDI is struck by a lightning bolt, thus zapping his circuits, and he develops a moral code. Initially, everything is fine. But then, on a subsequent mission in Pakistan, EDI decides that the decisions of the humans are faulty, and he starts doing his own thing... Now it's up to the three pilots to stop him.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: The three main pilots were selected from 400, due to their skill in the cockpit.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Between Henry and and EDI. This costs Henry his life when EDI dodges a missile and he loses visual for a second, causing him to plow into the canyon wall.
  • All of Them: It happens right after EDI becomes sentient after getting struck by lightning.
    Tech Guy: EDI just downloaded some music from the internet.
    Ben Gannon: How much?
    Tech Guy: All of it.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: An interesting variation. EDI doesn't actually decide the humans are evil or anything, but is just misinterpreting orders. When its human superiors try to correct the misunderstanding, it uses past statements or examples given by its human companions as a logical precedent for its actions. The overall effect is closer to Gone Horribly Right than Gone Horribly Wrong: EDI is really doing exactly what it was told to do, just not in the way it was told, and ignoring the context of said orders.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version uses "Countdown" by Hyde as the theme song.
  • Artistic License – Military: Quite a bit. Even the premise is suspect: because all of the Navy's hardware is, to at least some extent, Awesome, but Impractical, thanks to their extremely specialized requirements, it's the least likely branch of the Yanks with Tanks to sink a gazillion dollars into Super Prototype planes as it is seen doing here.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • All flight scenes.
    • The "implosion bomb" that safely takes down a skyscraper in the middle of a city as if it was a controlled demolition.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Henry crashes into a mountain chasing EDI.
  • Chekhov's Gun: EDI's cockpit chair.
  • Combat Pragmatist / Well-Intentioned Extremist: EDI doesn't care about collateral damage as long as he kills terrorists. Then again, he learned this from Ben, who was prepared to slam his plane into the ground and kill hundreds of people just to prove a point.
  • Cool Airship: Airborne fuel station, but it still counts.
  • Cool Plane: Well, yeah. Basically the entire premise of the movie is "Squadron of Cool Planes gets another Cool Plane added to their ranks."
  • Custom Uniform: Real naval uniforms are not quite as flattering as Jessica Biel's.
  • Custom Uniform of Sexy: Given how tight her uniforms are.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Leaving aside the funny acronym, just watch the scene where EDI goes for a refuel. His initial attempt is met with a feminine computer voice saying "Access Denied." He angrily shoves his refueling probe into the nozzle several times, complete with bumping noises. As he does this, the camera is focused on his cockpit and the actual computer housing his AI inside at an angle that invokes an angry-looking facial expression. Then, he shoots off the nozzle and forcibly shoves his refueling probe into the hose.
  • Driven to Suicide: The three protagonists' boss kills himself when his villainy is exposed (although we don't actually see it).
  • Eagle Land: A seemingly unintentional Type-2, as the right of Americans to fly into any country and shoot any local defenders is never questioned.
  • Emergency Refuelling: An airship tanker craft called a Camel Hump, which is basically a giant automated dirigible, orbits an area and refuels any craft that can reach it. After EDI goes nuts and requires fuel to continue on its rogue mission, the Navy tries to scramble its codes so that EDI will have no choice but to return to the carrier and refuel. EDI would have none of this, shoots the drogue off, and refuels anyway. When Gannon attempts to refuel his aircraft, he arrives to see a cloud of fuel, and while he refuels, EDI gives Gannon a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, ignites the cloud of fuel, and leaves. Gannon barely manages to get away before the Camel Hump explodes in a fireball large enough to be seen from space.
  • Everything Sensor: In Rangoon, EDI manages to perform a series of comically impossible tricks to identify the various terrorists, including identifying a fingerprint left on the scenery using a spy satellite.
  • Exact Words: EDI uses this logic when his superiors attempt to stop him from carrying out misinterpreted orders.
  • Fake Static: Gannon pulls this at one point.
  • Fanservice: Bikini-clad Jessica Biel? Yes, please. Doubles as a Shirtless Scene for Josh Lucas, and it's certainly just as nice for the chicks in the audience. (Also, Biel's extremely... snug legwear wriggling through the undergrowth later on.)
  • Friendly Enemies: Gannon and EDI, eventually.
  • Halfway Plot Switch/Conflict Killer: 90% of the film revolves around EDI gaining sentience, and the three pilots ending up in conflict with it as it goes on an AI Is A Crap Shoot rampage. The finale of the movie has Jessica Biel getting shot down in North Korean territory, and the movie ends with EDI and Gannon abruptly dropping the whole Man vs. Machine plotline entirely and teaming up to fight North Korea and save her.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: EDI kamikazes a North Korean helicopter to give Gannon and Wade the chance to escape.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A doctor is given orders to quiet Gannon by lethal injection. Gannon uses it on him instead.
  • Hollywood Science: Lots and lots of it.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: The dive-bomb in Rangoon. And that's not half of it. This may be justified on account of it being the planes and not the pilots.
  • Informed Ability: For the best pilots in the world, they sure do a lot of stupid things during the course of the movie.
  • Insane Admiral: Cummings. Well, captain, but as a Full Bird Captain he's not far short of flag rank.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: EDI becomes sentient after getting hit by a bolt of lightning; a splash of water from Lucas' character saves EDI from burning up and helps nudge him into a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Ironic Echo: During the canyon chase, separated by about ten seconds:
    Henry: Goodbye EDI!
    EDI: Goodbye Henry.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: EDI. He's the whole idea. And Gannon is the only one of the team that is seriously pissed about it.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The whole film runs on a hefty dose of the MST3K Mantra. Granted, it was inspired by media such as Macross and Ace Combat so a good bit of liberties taken with realism is hardly unexpected.
    • The F/A-37s would never be able to take off from a carrier. Aside from being based on a somewhat dubious concept aircraft which would likely have trouble transitioning between wing angles, there's the minor issue that they're apparently all but VTOL-capable, swing-wing CATOBAR aircraft with comically gigantic missile loadouts and utterly insane range; there's no way an aircraft with such a laundry list of capabilities would be able to take off from a standard Nimitz catapult, and it's doubtful if it could do so at all, especially not with the stated empty weight of nine metric tons for a 70-foot aircraft. And even if all that weren't true, there's the small matter of their rear landing gear being secured to the carrier's deck with tie-down chains when they're on the catapult. Although it's worth mentioning Northrop-Grumann believed the aerodynamic concept might be feasible and as such has taken steps to ensure they had complete control over the forward swept swing wing design for the next two decades by patenting it in 2000.
    • There's also the infamous exploding plane scene, where Jessica Biel punches out seconds before her plane explodes. Next, the pilotless-but-still-in-one-piece plane twists around and starts barreling after her like she insulted its mother (although it had been twisting around before she hit the eject). Then it explodes, and an enormous cloud of wreckage chases her down. The "Ludicrous Gibs" level of debris rather suggests she was carrying a Lockheed C-130 troop transport in her missile bay.
    • Slightly less obvious but equally hilarious is how the F/A-37s are shown to outfly Su-37s using exactly the kind of cool supermaneuver those very Su-37s introduced in real life. Somehow, the Russian pilots only know how to fly in straight lines.
    • Made even worse when you know that those very same maneuvers are reserved for airshows and technology demonstration, and that no competent pilot would actually be stupid enough to attempt one in an actual dogfight. Made even more worse (worser?) that they are in a dogfight at all, when both sides are equipped with Beyond Visual Range missile technology, which means dogfighting is your last resort, not your go-to strategy for an engagement.note  Or the fact the non-stealth Faux-37s weren't even detected until they were only 25 miles out, etc. There's also the fact that these Su-37s are shown as two-seaters, when the only two Su-37s in the real world only have room for the pilot.
    • The F/A-37's cockpit has more elbow room than do passengers on commercial jets. A bit more forgivably, the joystick is in a between-the-legs placement; most American jets since the F-16 have a side stick.
  • Karma Houdini: The government ally of the three heroes' corrupt boss seemed to go scot-free, despite his involvement in most of the movie (even if he only came up in the second half of the movie).
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Rewire an artificial intelligence into having self-awareness, obviously.
  • Military Maverick: Ben Gannon performs a bombing run that could have probably ended with multiple blocks of Rangoon destroyed and thousands dead if he had done it wrong in a moment of unapologetic Jerkass thinking (that EDI, a highly precise machine that could not be affected by G-forces, was not adequate for the job). This act (which is promptly learned by EDI) is the cause of all the problems that follow afterwards.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The powers that be want EDI to learn from the three mains. It watches and learns from Ben that getting the mission done is more important than following orders from that stupid stunt in Rangoon. If Ben had JUST let EDI take the damn shot... we wouldn't have a movie.
  • Nom de Guerre: Although the three human pilots have callsigns, they aren't get used. Gannon's call sign is "Big," Purcell's is "Easy" and Wade's is "Guns". EDI is given the callsign "Tinman", which he uses more consistently.
  • Precision F-Strike: only one F-bomb, possibly the only swear in the film.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Capt. Marshfield.
  • Rule of Fun: The most likely reason for all the inaccuracies and improbabilities.
  • Sapient Ship: EDI.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Ben Gannon lives and dies by this belief. He does the Rangoon bombing run because he believes it's right for a human to do it (although it ended up causing all of the problems of the film), he uses his authority as squadron leader to call off a mission that he and his fellow squadron members can see would end up irradiating a nearby town full of innocents if pulled off (and then is forced to do the bombing run anyway when EDI goes Leeroy Jenkins) and when he discovers that Wade never returned to the carrier and is Trapped Behind Enemy Lines, he disobeys direct orders, risks and loses EDI and causes what may be considered an act of war on North Korean soil to go rescue her. EDI learns it as well, and the first time he applies it he causes massive amounts of nuclear collateral damage which it cares none about and nearly causes an act of war against Russia.
  • Scenery Porn: The film has a very long time showcasing bird's-eye views of Asia, Europe and Alaska.
  • Shout-Out:
    • EDI has a big red eye; an obvious reference to HAL 9000.
    • And the entire third act could count as one to Iron Eagle (see Trapped by Mountain Lions).
    • EDI is directly compared to the Tinman and ends up having "Tinman" as his callsign.
  • Spoiler Title: The BTnote  score album gives away the Black Dude Dies First moment, has cues titled "Kara's Ejection," "Cummings' Suicide," "Death of Col Yune" and "EDI's Sacrifice" and if it had a track called "Just Tell Me You Love Me, You Pussy," named after what Kara says to Ben shortly before the end credits it would have the entire story of the movie right there.
  • Stealth Pun: According to the Tech Guy, the guy who made EDI was only 22 when he programmed the AI for the Raptor, a relatively new fighter aircraft. The Raptor's designation is F-22. Note that this is also literally a Stealth Pun.
  • The Stinger: After the credits, we see the red light of EDI's CPU come back on.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The aircraft seem to have non-conservation-of-energy missiles that explode with the force of plot.
  • There Are No Global Consequences: So the pilots shoot down 3 Russian pilots after invading their airspace, shot a bunch of North Korean soldiers in the finale, and EDI's little stunt when he started disobeying orders irradiated an unknown large amount of the Middle East... And all's well. No international incidents. No World War 3.
  • Token Romance: Ben and Kara. Mentioned in about two scenes, never has any relevance to the plot, and barely transmitted in the character interactions.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Set in the year 2016.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: The trio becomes a foursome once EDI arrives, and then it's back to a trio again.
  • Wham Line:
    Orbit: You feel...?
    EDI: Sorry.