Stealth Review (Blu-ray)

Director Rob Cohen prefaces Sony’s Stealth Blu-ray debut with an introduction to the new high definition format. Instead of this lone extra features speaking to new adopters about Blu-ray’s benefits, Cohen offers one measly rah-rah sentence before a montage of Stealth’s best looking CGI scenes are splashed across the screen. In this case the imagery is more powerful than any words Cohen could conjure, setting the stage for one of Blu-ray’s finest visual treats yet.

Cohen’s resume includes The Fast and the Furious and xXx, so Stealth’s emphasis on action over script development should come as no surprise. The action centers around a trio of hotshot pilots ripped right out of corny 1980s action flicks. Somehow Cohen talked Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel and Josh Lucas into these clichéd roles for what I can only imagine was a chance for them to relive Top Gun from their youth. Jamie is especially out of place as a loud mouth flyboy after winning an Oscar in Ray.

In another nod to 80s highflying favorites, the team is joined by an experimental pilot-less jet called EDI, or Eddie as the trio calls him. Eddie comes complete with a War Games synthesized voice and inevitable malfunction, leaving the human contingent as the only wall between Eddie’s armament and millions of innocent civilians. Several cool special effects, a ridiculous crash, an impossible precision night-time landing and cheesy funeral later, The Terminator, err…, Stealth teaches us a valuable lesson about the inherent dangers of letting computers with access to weapons of mass destruction issue their own commands.

Where Stealth earns its wings are when the planes are in the air. Each jet design is reminiscent of the stealth plane Clint Eastwood flew to safety in Firefox to elicit even more 80s nostalgia, as are some of the in-cockpit camera angles Cohen employs to draw viewers into the pilot’s seat. The planes take out a variety of targets in explosive set pieces well suited to take advantage of home theaters. A more engaging story would have been for the human pilots to use their brains and standard military planes against the super-engineered EDI stealth fighter, but Cohen’s Stealth never derails from providing the most visual bang from his budget at the expense of everything else.

Stealth’s abundant use of CGI is well suited to take advantage of Blu-ray’s 1080p resolution. Any scene involving the jets is beautifully reproduced with incredible sharpness, color vibrancy and no noticeable flaws whatsoever. Non-CGI scenes benefit from Stealth being shot recently with only light, probably intentional grain in the image. With some many early misses from the Blu-ray publishers, Stealth is a refreshing glimpse into the promise this high definition format holds.

Sony’s PCM 5.1 Blu-ray soundtracks continue to impress with this mix that equals, if not surpasses the DTS 5.1 mix on the standard DVD. Jet engines will rumble, and viewers have ample opportunity to crank up the volume so walls shake and pets stand at attention. There’s really nothing not to like about this mix, other than the story playing out beneath it.

Stealth is a loud, obnoxious, highly implausible 80s throwback to Top Gun. In other words, it’s a perfect eye candy candidate for early Blu-ray adopters to see what their expensive new equipment can really do. But don’t expect to see what these actors can really do.

– Dan Bradley

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