Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, Penelope Cruz, Lambert Wilson,
Glynn Turman, Delroy Lindo, William H. Macy
Director: Breck Eisner
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: August 30, 2005
NO WAY THAT SHOULD’VE WORKED.”
*** (On the Adventure/Escapism Scale)
Certain movies must
be viewed from a certain angle, and to enjoy a movie like Sahara, checking your brain at the door and suspending all disbelief
is the first couple of steps that must be taken. If you go into this movie
expecting anything resembling a believably structured plot or any type of
realism in general, you’re in trouble.
This is mindless,
popcorn-adventure entertainment at its highest, and quite possibly the best
movie of its kind since the Indiana Jones
movies. Many adventure movies over the years have been similarly compared, but Sahara
is one movie that truly deserves the comparison. This is clearly a production,
and a most expensive one at that, where a lot of effort was put in to make sure
the audience got their money’s worth.
Here goes a plot
description, and I hope I get everything down because there’s a lot to
The movie opens in
on the siege of Richmond during the Civil War. A general oversees the loading of
boxes containing mysterious items on board the monstrous ironclad ship known as
The Texas, a ship built with such high level steel that fired cannonballs bounce
right off it. The ship sails down a foggy landscape, and we then shift to
In Nigeria, a
mysterious illness is claiming the lives of many. Two scientists are sent in to
investigate the cause of the illness. One of the doctors, Eva Rojas (Peneolpe
Cruz), is soon saved by a heroic figure after being attacked by a group of men.
The heroic man explorer extrordinare is Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey).
Pitt, a former Navy
SEAL, and his lifelong sidekick Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), are representatives of
NUMA, a government funded organization which digs up historic artifacts and
houses them in museums. When Dirk convinces his uptight boss, Sandecker (William
H. Macy), about the possibility of buried treasure somewhere in Nigeria, he is
given 72 hours to find it. If he fails, he has agreed never to mention it again.
How is he convinced
that there may be a buried treasure? A confederate coin has come into his
possession through connections in Africa. It’s a rare confederate coin that
has never been issued, thus leaving Dirk to believe that there is more to be
found in Nigeria.
As the expedition
grows further, Dr. Rojas, who just happens to be along for the ride, comes to
discover that the mysterious illness is coming from toxic waste being dump in
wells across Africa. Dirk and Al soon learn that there is a huge waste disposal
plant that uses solar energy to incinerate the waste, with a rich and evil
industrialist behind it all, who is in cahoots with a menacing African warlord
who has slaves working at the plant, and is clearly getting rich off the
To make everything
worse, it is revealed that if the waste reaches the Atlantic Ocean, all life on
the planet will be destroyed. With no help from the U.S. Ambassador, our boys
are the only ones who can save the day.
So as you can see,
the plot of Sahara comes very close to
making no sense whatsoever, but does that even begin to make the movie bad? No,
because the entertainment value of Sahara
is extraordinarily high, thanks to a strong pacing, the charisma of the lead
actors and the audacious action sequences that occupy a great deal of the
movie’s running length.
And let’s talk
about the action scenes, because they are wonderfully executed and have the
ability to marvel, and even better, they are done the old fashioned way just
like it was done back in Raiders of the
Lost Ark. There’s an outlandish boat chase that’s both thrilling and
funny, as Dirk leaps from boat to boat to knock out baddies before leaping to
the other boat. With two boats approaching, Dirk and Al agree to execute a
Panama, which I will leave for you to see for yourself. The explanation for the
term Panama is one of the funniest gags in the movie.
And the action just
keeps getting bigger as the movie goes on. Dirk has an intense fist fight with a
goon on top of lengthy tower, from which our hero finds himself dangling. The
biggest bang, no pun intended, is the climatic sequence where Dirk duels with a
helicopter by way of a 150 year old cannon. How he got to using it is another
piece of info I’ll leave for you to discover.
So in short, Sahara
is everything one could ask for in a mindless action adventure flick. Matthew
McConaughey, who really bulked up for this role, makes a most competent action
hero in Dirk Pitt, who’s the hero in a series of novels by Clive Cussler, so a
franchise maybe in the works. Steve Zahn is one again hysterical as the put upon
sidekick, and Penelope Cruz pulls off the beautiful damsel in distress with
Sahara is nothing but fun movie escapism, and, despite the PG-13 rating, is
actually a good choice for the whole family.
Paramount ushers in
top notch work yet again with this fantastic looking presentation. The
anamorphic picture (Full Screen available separately) is nothing short of
stunning in the way it makes the large scale production seem ultimately real.
Africa has never looked more exquisite. Image clarity is strong and clear, and
colors are marvelous, as well. A wonderfully detailed presentation!
spectacle helps to boast one of the biggest bangs a single 5.1 mix has ever
given. The sound performance on this disc is purely astonishing right from scene
one and it just gets more fast and furious as the movie progresses. Dialogue is
superbly clear, and Clint Mansell’s James Bond-like music score is powerfully
delivered. This year has given many great sounding discs, and this is very much
at the top of the list.
A grand little
package from Paramount, which includes 2 commentary tracks; one with director
Breck Eisner, the second with Eisner and Matthew McConaughey, which was a most
fun listen filled with insight of what went into this production. Also included
are 3 well made featurettes, “Across the Sands of Sahara”, “Visualizing
Sahara” and “Cast and Crew Film Wrap”. Lastly, there are deleted scenes
with optional commentary and bonus previews.