Cinema Signal:

Air Warriors
The Inside Story of the Making of a Navy Pilot

. "Stealth"

What's stealthy about this film is its ability to run under its potential audience's radar. It has lightning swift air action, mind blowing nudity and a sci-fi plane with a brain. So, why isn't it flying better at the boxoffice? Why are so few scopes picking it up? Could it be lame characters and a premise with paltry propulsion?

To test the theory, we tell you that Rob Cohen's theatre of action is a place of third streamers passed off as top guns. Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas) is in charge of the trio of naval pilots to whom the new artificial intelligence chip-guided jet has been assigned to make his squadron a quartet, which he isn't liking very much. His mates are Lt. Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx before the award for "Ray") and the beauteous Lt. Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) who fills out a flight suit like an angel modeling military chic. This is superseded only by the moment that she takes it off down to bikini for a little hands-off R&R at the ol' terrestrial swimming hole.

Ahem. Okay, back to the scenario. Whatever relationships exist among this exclusive membership, they're kept at enough emotional distance to avoid a mishap in formation. So, it comes as a surprise when last minute bonding creeps in at the end, as though to rescue the operation with a desperate last minute attempt to say, "hey, we're even throwing in a love story." But, it's way too late for this hyperdriven dream of mechanical and digital precision. Back to the plotwriting.

Our heroes answer to bossman, Captain George Cummings (Sam Shephard), a curmudgeon in the making. This guy doesn't seem too pleased by anything except the advanced new toy that's been given to him by his Pentagon superiors for a rollout in the skies. It's a pilotless state-of-the-art jet with the ability to learn from every encounter with man or machine and to think, reason and react like a criminal mastermind. (Its programming got a bit away from the genius that designed its chip). The craft is called EDI (as in "Eddie") for Extremely Deep Interloper. Or, is that "Intelligence?" "Invader?"

In any event, it could care less that Gannon doesn't want him off his wing and riducules his "leader's" efforts to keep him out of the formation's loop. For Gannon, it's a difficult assignment, given as how EDI is such a superior brat in need of behavior modification. It's sort of like Terminator 3 up against the new generation T-X in "Terminator 3". And when EDI goes about doing what it wants, giving Gannon heartburn and an empty fuel tank, Gannon develops an even greater distaste for the renegade craft driven by the cheerless chip.

Complex flight choreography, sharp production design, military backup in the score mostly by BT, and a soundtrack album that includes Incubus, David Bowie, Sly and the Family Stone and others provide what lift there is in this contraption.

Why director Cohen and his creative minions thought a rebirth of HAL from Stanley Kubrick's "2001" would have appeal in these skies at this time, is anybody's guess. These computer personalities talk so much alike in smug, genderless intonations, you'd think they were made for each other. But, I'll give Cohen credit for intercutting the human melodrama in an attempt to balance the machine driven madness. Trouble is, the personalities and their issues are too weightlessly drawn to generate the heat of involvement. It's something like printing a letter in draft mode. Which appears to be the problem of this flight.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  



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Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx
Maybe they shouldn't be congratulating themselves

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