A few words about . . . Sahara

The film: I’ve never read any of Clive Cussler’s books (although my mom is a big fan), so I cannot say whether the big-screen adaptation of his novel Sahara is entirely faithful to its source. I will mention, however, that if the movie is at least as good as the book (which is rarely, if ever, true), the book must be one rollickin’ read.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Dirk Pitt, explorer/adventurer/martial artist/MacGyver extraordinaire, in search of a long-lost Civil War ironclad ship which just may have ended up land-locked in the middle of Africa. Add his buddy Al (Steve Zahn, playing himself yet again) and an attractive doctor (Penelope Cruz) who just happens to be exploring the causes of a plague in the same vicinity, and you get a pretty intriguing mystery right there. But to top it all off, there’s a ruthless tribal general who’ll stop at nothing to protect the source of the plague, and he’s got enough soldiers and heavy artillery to invade Iraq. This latter aspect of the story is the primary source of the action, as Dirk and his friends must find a way to (1) find the source of the plague and stop it, (2) avoid the bad guys, (3) unite an opposing tribal faction against the general, (4) survive the brutal conditions of the Sahara desert, and (5) look totally awesome doing it.That’s quite a load to handle, and the film mostly succeeds at it, although the screenwriters create so many loose ends that they’re unable to completely resolve, such that the ending feels like they took the easy way out by tying everything up in a nice, tidy bow. McConaughey acquits himself well as Pitt, really throwing himself into the role and doing everything he can to make the character likable. I’ll give him that, but he falls just short of making Pitt particularly memorable. It’s cool to watch him in action, but he’s easily forgotten after the movie ends. Zahn is his typical zany self, but Cruz isn’t left with much to do except get into danger and look pretty.

This kind of movie isn’t about the plot anyway, as self-contained action scenes pile up on top of one another. Sahara is perfectly suitable popcorn entertainment, and a decent beginning to a hoped-for Dirk Pitt movie franchise – just don’t go looking for a lot of brains in this beast.

Image quality: The video transfer on this DVD looks pretty great. Colors are vibrant and solid, with rich textures and lots of clearly definable beads of sweat on the actors’ bodies. I only detected a hint of edge enhancement in a few scenes, but not enough to be overly bothersome.

Sound quality: The film’s foley team sure knows how to re-create gunfire. All sorts of weaponry blasts off in this film, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 track handles the effects with aplomb. Surround activity is terrific, with plenty of wrap-around effects from the many helicopter fly-bys and explosions. If anything, the dialogue sounds a bit muted, so if you turn it up to hear the actors, be prepared for a sonic assault once the action heats up (which is quite often, actually). The sub gets a good workout, so make sure the neighbors are away before cranking up the volume.

Overall: Sahara is decent entertainment, and a recommended rental for folks who enjoy films in this genre.Rated: PG-13 for action violence. I detected a small handful of PG-level profanity, and two people kiss in one scene, but the main thing here is all the gunplay. There’s relatively little blood, but plenty of bad guys (and a few good guys) meet an untimely end.

One Response to “A few words about . . . Sahara”

  1. I enjoyed the movie too, but as you said, it’s not nearly as good as the book. And Matthew and Steve are the last ones I’d pick to play Dirk and Al. Dirk Pitt is way smarter and more resourceful than James Bond too. I recommend Clive Cussler to everyone. His books are great adventures. I’m reading one now.

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