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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Stealth (Blu-ray)
Stealth (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures // PG-13 // July 25, 2006 // Region A
List Price: $28.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 3, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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The Movie:

So far in the HD DVD – Blu-ray format war there hasn't been a lot for those in the Blu-ray camp to cheer about. The first wave of titles were uniformly unimpressive and they didn't do much to advance the format. With the release of Stealth, a mediocre 2005 high budget action film, that's changed. This disc actually looks good, with strong details, eye-popping explosions and a very impressive soundtrack. It's just too bad that the first high quality Blu-Ray disc couldn't have been a better movie.

Lt. Ben Gannon (Josh Lucas) is the leader of an elite group of Navy pilots. Along with Lt. Kara Wade (Jessica Biel) and Lt. Henry Purcell (Jamie Foxx), he has been assigned to the newest and best fighter planes that the Navy has, the Talon. Yet after putting the new planes through their paces, the commander, Capt. George Cummings (Sam Shepard) has a surprise for his pilots: their squadron is getting a new member. This is no ordinary flyer though, the new plane is going to be piloted by a new advanced computer. This new prototype, with the unlikely designation Extreme Deep Invader or Eddie for short, may just be the wave of the future.

Gannon and company take the plane on some exercises and it performs impeccably. Almost too good. When returning from its first real mission though, Eddie takes a lightning strike and its quantum memory gets scrambled. It becomes self aware and can think for itself, hack into any files it wants, and disable any fail safes that might have been installed, all unbeknownst to Capt. Cummings.

Though Gannon says that "something doesn't feel right" about Eddie after the lighting strike, Cummings orders the group out on another mission. When they discover that the job can't be completed without significant civilian casualties, Gannon orders his squad to abort, but Eddie doesn't. He's a fighter plane and his reason for being is to fight. He proceeds with the mission, causing hundreds of people to die, and then informs everyone that he's selected another target to attack, this one inside of Russia. It's up to Ben, Kara, and Henry to stop the plane from starting a world war.

Going into this film, wasn't expecting much, but I was curious. When it was in the theaters this film was mercilessly attacked by the critics, so I was sure it wasn't a masterpiece. Then again, it was written by W. D. Richter the director and producer of one of the movies I find myself popping in the player way too often, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He also wrote another guilty pleasure of mine, Big Trouble in Little China. So I thought there was a chance that it might be worth watching.

My reaction? I had fun. Yes, it's a mindless movie, and there are way to many plot holes and stupid mistakes to list. If you think about it at all, the film pretty much falls apart. If you pop a big bowl of popcorn, sit in a nice comfy chair, and crank your stereo, you should have a good time. This special effects laden spectacle has a lot of cool explosions and some really cool flying scenes. Yes, it's all eye candy, but that can be fun.

Aside from the fun factor, there really isn't anything to recommend this movie. There are several ludicrous moments in the film, and anyone who has a basic grasp of world geography will be scratching their heads through most of the movie. (Kara is over Pakistan and is flying to the Mediterranean but travels over North Korea to get there? How's that work?) The acting is wooden and uninspiring, and the dialog is pretty bad. Some lines just make you cringe, such as Gannon's argument against employing Eddie: "War's terrible. It's meant to be terrible, and if it stops being terrible, what's going to stop us?"

I can see why this movie was trashed when it came out. There are a lot of things wrong with it. It is, however, still a lot of fun. You get a visceral thrill from watching a giant unmanned blimp filled with jet fuel explode or a plane flying at mach two straight down in order to bomb some terrorists. Things blow up, clouds whiz by, and there's a good amount of automatic weapons fire. Sometimes that's enough.

The DVD:


Note: The only Blu-Ray DVD player on the market at the time of this review is the Samsung BD-P1000. Apparently an error crept into the design, and a noise reduction algorithm on one of the chips was turned on which creates a softer picture. As yet there is no fix for this, or even an official announcement from Samsung.

Video:

I haven't had a lot of good things to say about the video quality of the Blu-Ray discs that I've seen. None of them have really impressed me. Until now. This disc looks really good, and no one is more surprised than I am.

The 2.40:1 widescreen image is impressive with objects that really pop off the screen, something that has been missing from all the other Blu-Ray discs I've screened. The picture is full of detail and sharp. The blacks were spot-on black, and the colors were very vivid. The explosions seemed to leap off the screen with bright orange tongues of flame that were textured and realistic. The night scenes looked great too, with good color saturation and details that weren't lost in shadows. Even better there wasn't any grain or digital noise that has affected other Blu-Ray discs. Edge enhancement was nonexistent too.

This is the first Blu-Ray disc that isn't a disappointment. If this had been the first disc released, the format war would have started out much differently.

Audio:

The disc offers viewers a choice of an uncompressed PCM 5.1 track or DD 5.1 tracks in English and French. I screen the title with the PCM track and was very impressed. This really brought the film to life, adding another dimension to the film the way the best soundtracks do. There good use made of the full soundstage with all of the speakers getting a good workout. Planes seemingly flying overhead and from left to right and front to back, gun shots fly across the room totally immersing the viewer. The explosions, of which there are many, shake the windows and rattle the doors. More importantly the quite parts of the film sound great too. The high notes of the background music are crisp and the whole soundtrack is clean. An excellent sounding disc that will impress viewers.

Like the SD release, there are also subtitles in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, Korean, and Thai.

Extras:

When looking for extras on a Sony Blu-Ray DVD, I expect to be disappointed. They often only include a fraction of the material available on the standard definition discs. Even with my low expectations I was pretty astounded that there were none of the extras that are to be found on the two-disc special edition. Okay…well what do we early adopters get instead??? An Introduction to Blu-Ray with Stealth Director Rob Cohen. Sounds cool doesn't it? Maybe he'll talk about the new technology that has been developed for the format, or maybe he'll discuss how the film was mastered in HD to take advantage of Blu-Ray's capabilities. Sorry to disappoint you but he doesn't talk about any of that. His entire contribution is a single sentence where he introduces himself and welcomes viewers to the disc. The rest of the four-minute feature has shots from the movie and on-location shots of the cast and crew while rock music plays in the background. No voice overs, no discussion of Blu-Ray or the film. Nothing. There are even some shots of people surfing, and I can't for the life of me figure out why they were included. A really disappointing extra. A trailer would have been more welcome.

Final Thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised by this disc. The image quality was what I was expecting from Blu-Ray all along. The image looks HD and the planes zipping around the stratosphere look really good. The audio is even more impressive with a soundtrack that envelopes the viewer during the action scenes but doesn't collapse into a stereo mix during the rest of the film. My only regret is that the film is so poor. This is the second time I've seen the film, and it doesn't hold up very well on repeated viewings. Still, this is the best looking disc I've seen for Blu-Ray yet, and for that reason this disc is Recommended.
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