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Old School Adventure Film with Good, Clean Fun
on July 2, 2005
I don't know the reaction of Clive Cussler fans to this film -- I don't know why the author is so angry about it -- but as an ordinary film fan, 'Sahara' is mostly enjoyable, if not outstanding action adventure film. Matthew McCoaughey is a likable treasure hunting hero Dirk Pitt from 'NUMA'; Steve Zahn is a scene-stealing sidekick (and he is always so) Al Giordino; and Penelope Cruz as a doctor Eva Rojas from WHO, who gets involved with Dirk's adventures. These premises, together with the hidden gold coins made during the time of the Civil War, sound much like 'National Treasure,' and the comparison is interesting because director of 'Sahara' is Breck Eisner ('Taken') also known as son of Michael Eisner.
But 'Sahara' is different from that Nicholas Cage film, and that is the location mostly set in the hot desert of Africa. Dirk, Al, and another NUMA agent Rudi (Rainn Wilson) borrowing a small boat from Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy), cruise on the river into the desert of Mali, Africa, where he believes a huge US iron-clad ship disappered with gold coins.
At the same time, the film shows us that a deadly plague is killing the people of Mali. So, on the way to the country, Dirk and Al travel with a beautiful doctor Eva, who seeks for the cause of the disease with her senior Dr. Frank (Glynn Turman). Don't call it a contrived story yet, for 'Sahara' is going to get more contrived as the team is attacked by the machine-guns, rockets, tanks, and helicopters of the country's troops, and their incredible adventures begin.
That's it, and that's all I have to say. The film is made with a familiar set-pieces, none of which are particularly imaginative or innovative, but techinically speaking they are fine. Action film fans like me might say we have seen the same kind of scenes -- like, peeping into the 'secret' of one company owner (Lambert Wilson); blowing dynamites without using fuse, or foolishly giving our heroes chances to escape from the villains who just don't think of killing them instantly. You can spot bits from James Bond, bits from Indiana Jones, or bits from any actioners shot in Morocco, the land which provides the wonderful landscapes for the film.
However, in spite of its impossible story and lack of chemistry between McConaughey and Cruz (who is miscast, I am afraid), the whole film goes plesantly enough, with competently done action sequences and authentic images of Africa. Totally unoriginal, but 'Sahara' is still fun to see.