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TheRaider.net Research Indy's Influences Legacy Sahara
 
Sahara
 

Released by Paramount Pictures – 2005

Directed by: Breck Eisner
Story by: Clive Cussler (novel)
Screenplay by: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, John C. Richards & James V. Hart
Produced by: Stephanie Austin, Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin & Mace Neufeld

Starring:
Matthew McConaughey .... Dirk Pitt
Steve Zahn .... Al Giordino
Penélope Cruz .... Eva Rojas
Lambert Wilson .... Yves Massarde
William H. Macy .... Admiral Jim Sandecker

 

The farther and farther we get from the 1980s, the farther we get from adventure films with interesting characters, dramatic development, pacing, and solid scripting. Adventure serials of the 1930s and 1940s were understandably shallow. They only had so much time to devote to characters, while the rest was all plot and action.


Matthew McConaughey
as Dirk Pitt.

Adventure was reinvented in the early 1980s with films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone. These films took the ideas of the serials and expanded the neglected areas to round out great stories with intriguing heroes and villains. Unfortunately, as time has passed, substance has given way to style and characters have become mere impressions rather than whole individuals.

It’s hard to care about characters on screen anymore, especially action heroes. We know nothing about them. Should these films be reviewed in the context of modern filmmaking sensibilities, as it appears this will not change anytime soon, or should they be compared to what has come before? I vote for the latter. Which brings us to Sahara.


Left: William H. Macy.

Based on the best-selling Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler, Sahara is another rollicking adventure with the intrepid fortune hunter, Pitt, played by Matthew McConaughey. Pitt and his partner, Al, played by the always-funny Steve Zahn, work for William H. Macy, whose organization helps nations recover their lost and legendary treasures. Pitt has a side quest however. He is obsessed with the fate of the Texas, a Confederate ironclad that disappeared at the end of the Civil War and was never found.

While fortune hunting in Nigeria, Pitt follows some clues that lead him to believe the Texas might be buried in the sands of the African desert. With Al at his side, Pitt takes off for Mali, the nation that hints as being the location of the lost ship. At the same time, Penelope Cruz plays a doctor with the World Health Organization trying to find the source of what seems to be a plague in Mali. But is it really plague, or a corrupt military dictator deliberately poisoning his own people? Cruz’ path collides with Pitt and all hell breaks loose.


Dirk Pitt and partner Al.

The story is very shallow, the character development non-existent. However, the film does move at a very nice clip and the action scenes are engaging and well conceived. The highlight of the film is Steve Zahn, whose character always has something entertaining to say just when you think it’s about to become cliché. Of course, the film is rather cliché, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, so there are no fingers to point. Well, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s son is the director, and a first time one at that… maybe there’s something to that… maybe.

McConaughey was born to play a James Bond type and is right at home as Dirk Pitt. His performance is just full of energy and charisma. Of course, McConaughey has proved he can play anything from a World War II submarine captain to a dragon-killing warrior with complete credibility. Cruz, as the female lead, does her best but falls into the shadows in McConaughey and Zahn’s wake. I don’t know why Hollywood keeps trying to get audiences to bank on her. She’s not terrible, but the roles she’s taken have not showcased her in any way. She sometimes seems on autopilot here.


Trio saved from sahara.

All in all, Sahara is entertaining adventure fare. Don’t think too deep though, and don’t expect anything profound. I’m writing this only thirty minutes after having seen it, and I’ve already forgotten half of what went on in the film. It’s not bad, it’s not stellar, it’s not memorable, but it is fun.

Indiana Jones references??? Umm… Well, they have a coin which is kinda like the headpiece to the Staff of Ra because it starts the quest and they are looking for a lost ship. However, there isn’t any magic to speak of in the film, no ancient powers, and the object in question isn’t really legendary. Did I mention they spend the film in the desert? That’s like Indiana Jones right? Yeah, I know, I’m reaching. It’s not really like Indiana Jones, it’s just trying to claim it is so more people will go see it. (MF)

 

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