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Sahara (2005)
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99 of 120 people found the following review helpful
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.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2007
"Sahara" had less than a stellar turn out at the box office upon its initial release and I happened to let it slip by my radar at the time. I had read the novel upon which the film was based and thought it stupid but fun and I expected the film to be about the same but with more emphasis on the former than the latter. Well I was a bit wrong on that score. Sure, "Sahara" isn't going to win awards for smarts but hey this is an action adventure film and it doesen't pretend to be anything but that. Fortunately thats what makes this film stand out from a lot of others of its kind. Its concerned only with providing good old fashioned actioneer fun; nothing more and nothing less and it succeeds quite well with those simple ambitions.

Now if your a hardcore Cussler/Dirk Pitt fan you may be disappointed with the fact that the films characterizations are not the same as the ones in the book but I will argue that the movie does a good job of at least staying true to the spirit of those characters. Frankly I'm not overly impressed with Cussler's writing. His characrers are flat and his dialog is laughable. For example, his villains are right out of some old pulp or movie serial and will actually say things like: "The American devils have foiled our plans and now they must die!!" I kid you not, that is not an exaggeration of typical Cussler dialog. You can see how that may not translate well to film and fortunately the film makers are able to make the dialog and story a bit smarter than the original material upon which it is based. Anyway, the actors are fine and are having a great time and the direction and cinematography are above average. My only real complaint is an over reliance on classic rock as a soundtrack; I like classic rock but it should have a more limited role as a music soundtrack for an action film.

All in all "Sahara" is great old fashioned escapist entertainment and is not meant to be taken too seriously. So, my recommendation is to pop some popcorn and put this disc in for an evening of solid action entertainment.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 26, 2007
Clive Cussler's books featuring Dirk Pitt have always been a favorite of mine. That's a bit of a guilty pleasure. Cussler's characters could better be called caricatures. His plots are also larger than life -- no one could suspend disbelief enough to think that the things Cussler dreams up for his hero Dirk Pitt could ever happen in real life.

But that does not stop me from enjoying the books. Cussler's lively imagination captures me in his make-believe world for a time. And his almost self-parodying characters always entertain as an escape from real life people.

The movie Sahara is the same way. It's just as fun to watch as the book Sahara is to read.

Yes, it's true that the movie does not follow the book. That's probably a good thing. Cussler's novels would not translate well to the movie screen if the translation were too direct. Cussler's intricate plotting, his attention to detail (as in his detailed description of each classic car that appears in any book), and his rather cartoonish dialogue work in his books. They would look foolish in a movie.

As a movie, Sahara works best as a family picture. Adults will probably find it entertaining enough. Children will find it easy to understand, with enough humor and surprises to keep their interest.

Definitely not a must-see film. But everyone in our family liked it. Both adults, and both children. Everyone thumbs up. That's pretty rare.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2005
I've never read Clive Cussler so I can't compare the movie to his novel, but I enjoyed the film. It's not a classic and it won't win any awards but it will entertain you. Dirk Pitt and his pal Al Giordano are treasure hunters looking for an ironclad ship from the American Civil War that may have somehow ended up in Africa. Penelope Cruz plays a doctor from the WHO investigating a new illness spreading from an African country. They cross paths and together find the source of the disease and eventually find the Civil War ship. The plot is preposterous and you never believe Cruz as a WHO physician but the movie is action packed from beginning to end and Steven Zahn as sidekick Al provides some genuinely funny moments. Sahara delivers exactly what it sets out to, a few hours of mindless entertainment.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 2, 2005
No gratuitous sex scenes, no major cursing, a great sidekick, plenty of humor, fair science, a plot (however implausible), and editing that did not cut out important parts of the story. It's all here. I think the stars were well picked and likeable in their roles. This movie kept the whole family interested throughout and when I told them it was based on one of a series of books, they wondered when the next movie would come out. What more could one ask for. I suggest this as a should watch... safe for pretty much everyone in the family. Enjoy!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2006
Sahara, directed by Breck Eisner, is an action/adventure film about two treasure hunters, Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and Al Giordino (Steve Zahn). Al and Dirk travel to Mali to try to search for a lost Civil War battleship filled with treasure, but then they temporarily abandon their own quest and join Eva Rojas (Penélope Cruz) to try to find the source of a deadly "plague" that's spreading across Africa.

If you think Sahara is another one of those predictable, clichéd action movies that we've seen too many of lately...you're right. Everyone loves to see a great action hero perform some cool, humanly impossible stunt, and it just wouldn't be an exciting enough ending if the main characters didn't overcome impossible odds to achieve their victory, but when this happens again and again and again...it's not even thrilling any more. "There's no way that should have worked, right?" remarks one of the characters near the end of the movie, but by that point I'd already thought the same thing myself countless times. Still, I do have to give the filmmakers some credit. The special effects are great, and at least a lot of the stunts are imaginative, though unrealistic. But there was one thing about the plot that really got on my nerves. Isn't it suspenseful enough to watch the heroes and heroine try to save the lives of all the people in Africa? Apparently not, since part way through the movie it's revealed that if the nuclear waste that's poisoning Mali's water supply isn't taken care of in a few days, it will destroy the entire world. No, I'm not joking, they really expect us to suspend our reality that much.

The three main characters in Sahara are formulaic for this type of movie. You've got the laid-back, overconfident action hero who has more luck than skill, the comic-relief, and the brave heroine who, despite her brains and resourcefulness, still needs the aforementioned action hero to rescue her from the bad guy's lair. McConaughey wasn't very believable in his role, often appearing way too calm, but Cruz did alright in comparison. At first, I was pleasantly surprised at the way the movie down-played the usually inevitable romance between the male and female lead, but that just made it seem out of place when they started kissing at the end. Uh, did I miss something? On the other hand, I was really impressed with Zahn. He had a lot of funny quotes, and his comedic timing was perfect! I wasn't the only person in the theater laughing out loud at lines that would have sounded lame if they'd been said by almost anyone else. If you ever decide to go on a perilous treasure hunt, Zahn's character, Al, is definitely the type of guy you want to take with you; he'll make the whole experience much more enjoyable.

Sahara is funnier and more imaginative than a typical action movie, but that doesn't change the fact that it is still just that: a typical action movie. But, since I doubt that too many original action/adventure movies will be coming out in the near future, if you're a fan of the genre you might want to settle for this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 15, 2005
I watched this over the weekend on my wife's recommendation -- something that I usually avoid because she has an unnerving penchant for chick-flicks. Strangely enough, this one was pure adventure and action from beginning to end (which is more my taste in movies) and we both enjoyed it.

I've only seen a handful of Matthew McConaughy movies over the years, but this may well be my favorite -- just because the Dirk Pitt character is just so darned cool. He's a true man's man -- ex Navy Seal, treasure hunter, and semi-credible action hero, complete with dashing good looks, a keen wit and a full head of wavy dark hair that is the envy of bald guys like me. In short, he's the consummate studly guy.

Pitt is cool, but he has some good support from guys like Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), Admiral Sandecker (well acted by William H. Macy), and the predictably babish Dr. Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz). The story is fast-moving, the stakes high (saving the world, as is usual in movies like this), and the plot is only modestly cliche. In short, as long as you don't intend to take this too seriously or seek a profound commentary on the meaning of life, the universe and everything, you're liable to have a lot of good clean fun with this movie. Enjoy it. I did.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2005
Although there have been a lenghty string of action/adventure movies in the last year or so, and they have all been worthy and entertaining, never as action-packed or fun-filled as this one. Matthew Mconaughey plays a modern-day Indiana Jones or Rick O'Connell who is in search of a Civil War battleship buried in the Sahara. He is everything you'd want in an action hero. He has a wisecracking sidekick (Steve Zahn). Also helping is a doctor (Penelope Cruz). Some people say this movie is unrealistic, silly, and stupid. And some of it is. But really, who cares? It's action-packed, National Treasure-meets-The Mummy type of movie. And if that's not the greatest action/adventure ever made, I don't know what would be. Also reccomended, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, National Treasure, the Indiana Jones movies, and Sky Captain and the world of tomorrow.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The mere premise of a Confederate ironclad ship somehow winding up buried underneath the desert of Africa was enough to make me want to see this film. How the heck are they going to explain that one? Sahara was a different film than I expected, however; I pictured these guys out there digging up this historical relic, but there's very little of an archaeological nature to what turned out to be a fast-paced, quick-witted thrill ride of an adventure. The discovery of the ironclad ship sort of falls into the background as the story mixes in a deadly plague, a brutal African dictator, and a potential threat to life as we know it. Don't expect things to get too serious, though, as "treasure hunters" Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and his hilarious sidekick Al (Steve Zahn) basically laugh their way through an incredible series of dangerous escapes and reckless acts of heroism. These guys could show MacGyver a trick or two.

Dirk works for NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency), and he manages to talk his boss into giving him a couple of days to follow up on an important clue to his pet obsession; not surprisingly, most folks think he's crazy to argue that the lost Confederate ironclad The Texas somehow crossed the Atlantic and now rests beneath the sands of Africa. Along the way, though, Dirk and Al get a little sidetracked by Dr. Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) and her cohort Dr. Hopper (Glynn Turman), doctors with the World Health Organization trying to find the source of a deadly, spreading infection. That source lies in Mali, a country ravaged by fighting between the forces of General Kazim (Lennie James) and rebels opposing his dictatorial ways. Dr. Rojas does indeed run into trouble, but the personal danger she faces is nothing compared to the dangers she and Dirk eventually discover out in the wastelands of the desert. Dirk and Al are a two-man wrecking crew, single-handedly taking out whatever comes their way - armed soldiers, tanks, helicopters, you name it. A lot of it is ridiculously over the top - yet all the more entertaining for that very reason - you'll be rolling your eyes, but you'll be laughing as you do so.

Sahara is really an action comedy. A Confederate ironclad ship buried beneath the Sahara (carrying oodles of gold coins, to boot) is far from the most improbable plot element on display here. McConaughey and Zahn are great in their roles, though, and that is the real secret to this movie's success. The wrong actor in the role of either Dirk or Al would have been disaster, as the fanciful story could never have stood on its own two legs without the support of the right actors. I can't say I truly bought Penelope Cruz as a doctor, but she more than held her own when it came to playing hardball with the big boys. Of course, it helps when the bad guys are the worst shots in the world; it's actually rather ridiculous, as these guys almost surely broke the world's record for most missed shots in one movie.

It's pretty simple, really - if you like action comedies, you should enjoy Sahara. The comedic banter between the actors is consistently funny, there are plenty of action scenes chock full of gunfights, explosions, and fisticuffs, and you won't find any dull moments once things really get going.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Here we go again. "Sahara" is yet another example of empty-headed Hollywood entertainment. Seemingly, studios continue to gamble millions upon millions of dollars that Americans will pay to go to see anything as long as there are explosions, chases, and one-liners. Cohesive scripts, fleshed out characters, and logical motivations aren't necessary. The sad part is--they aren't wrong most of the time.

The inevitable comparisons of "Sahara" to "National Treasure" have been made abundantly. They might as well be the same movie, enough said. There are also similarities to any number of James Bond films, and those are legitimate too--Except James Bond is a highly trained superagent while the "Sahara" boys are flippant treasure hunters. Nothing real is at stake for our boys, even with hundreds of people dying. After surviving a near massacre, losing their only transportation, being stranded in the desert, being chased by a military force, and having just killed dozens of people--the natural reaction is, of course, "I lost my hat." Hard for us to get too excited if there is no real danger!

Matthew McConaughey burst onto the scene over ten years ago now with charisma to spare. He has done little, however, to stretch as an actor. He capitalizes on his looks and charm over and over again in lightweight bubblegum pop and/or not-so-funny romantic comedies. He even produced this epic--trying to cash in once more. Steve Zahn, a talented actor, also seems content to play the same wisecracking sidekick repeatedly. And Penelope Cruz--let's just be kind and say she is convincing neither as an action heroine or a doctor.

I'm in a generous mood today, and I'll award "Sahara" 2 stars. It has some pretty scenery to look at. It knows it isn't very good, so at least it isn't pretentious. Having a bit of self-awareness is always a good thing. KGHarris, 10/06.
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