Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None stated
MANY have tried but few have come close to recapturing the genuine
sense of fun that surrounded the Indiana Jones action-adventure
Yet Sahara, starring Matthew McConaughey as master explorer,
Dirk Pitt, comes very close, deftly blending its old-school thrills
with a touch of James Bond as well.
It's largely about boys and their toys but director, Breck Eisner's
film, which is based on the novel by Clive Cussler (of Raise The
Titanic fame), is so shamelessly enjoyable that viewers ought
to forget they've been here countless times before.
The film centres around the search for a long-lost Civil War
battleship, dubbed the 'Ship of Death', that has become something
of a Holy Grail to Pitt and his long-time collaborator, Al Giordino
Convinced that the ship found its way to Africa, Pitt uses his
position within NUMA (the National Underwater and Marine Agency)
to further his quest to locate it.
Yet his latest expedition brings him into contact with Dr Eva
Rojas (Penelope Cruz), a World Health Organisation (WHO) doctor,
who thinks she has uncovered a deadly epidemic that may be sweeping
its way across Africa.
Hitching a ride with Pitt and Giordino, it's not long before
all three find themselves courting the attention of a dangerous
African warlord (Lennie James) and his money-hungry business partner,
Massadre (Lambert Wilson), whose nuclear waste disposal plant
may be the source of the pollution.
The ensuing high adventure is an energetic romp packed with plenty
of explosions and near-death experiences that also works because
of the chemistry of its stars.
It may be wildly over the top at
times but it seldom takes itself too seriously and displays a
keen eye for exotic locations and exciting set pieces.
Of the central trio, McConaughey, especially, uses his laidback
Texan charm to endearing effect, creating a rugged yet believable
action-hero to rival the best in the genre.
His relationship with Zahn's wise-cracking side-kick is particularly
well played, yet he is equally adept at turning on the charm for
While Cruz acquits herself well, proving far more than a mere
damsel-in-distress, even though her story arc is the film's weakest
point (appearing a little out of keeping with the generally light-hearted
Support wise, the ever-reliable William H Macy elevates the performance-level
still higher, as McConaughey's former commander-turned-ally, while
the likes of Lambert Wilson and Delroy Lindo (as a CIA operative)
lend added gravitas to even the smallest roles.
Director, Eisner, deserves credit, too, for delivering a film
that seems fresh and exciting, rather than stale and formulaic.
Having been championed by Steven Spielberg, he seizes the opportunity
to deliver an action movie that not only looks terrific but keeps
audiences thrilled too.
A slick speedboat chase early on sets the standard, while several
of the fight sequences are well-orchestrated and humorous.
Eisner even throws in plenty of nods to other movies, including
a brilliant Flight of the Phoenix-style plane sequence and several
tongue-in-cheek references to both the Indiana Jones and James
The result is a genuinely pleasant surprise - a film which trades
on the familiar, but which certainly has no problem in keeping
up with a certain Mr Jones.