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STEALTH

An evil drone's no-longer-fantastic voyage

January 16, 2005|John Horn | Times Staff Writer

The walls of director Rob Cohen's editing suite are covered with tales of futuristic, unmanned warfare that read like a blend of Tom Clancy and Isaac Asimov. Yet these accounts are hardly far-out military fantasy; they are in fact recent news articles, making Cohen's "Stealth" more topical than the "Fast and the Furious" filmmaker ever imagined.

Cohen's July 29 movie has at its center a computerized fighter "pilot" with startlingly lifelike qualities: The machine can talk and when it grabs the joystick, it has more right stuff than Chuck Yeager.

But just as "2001's" HAL decides to play around with his artificial intelligence, "Stealth's" high-tech flyboy thinks he's king of the world after being rewired in an electrical storm. Flesh-and-bones Navy fliers Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx must then take to the skies to bring down Edi, as the badly behaved CPU is called, before it takes down the world.

"We made it up, and now it's turning out to be true," Cohen says, noting that pilotless drones will play a huge part in future combat and already have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. "In the last two years," Cohen says, pointing to his wall, "we've had a lot of stories about what this movie is about." Once set in the future, "Stealth" now takes place in modern day.

To simulate flying scenes, Cohen strapped his real (and occasionally nauseated) actors into a cockpit mounted on a $2-million gimbal that could spin around like a top. "This is a big-scale movie about an idea that is important to me," Cohen says. "Once you give something the facility to learn, you cannot stop it."

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