Monday 4 October 2021

Movie Review: Sahara (2005)

An action-packed adventure, Sahara combines a wacky search for a lost ship with a rapidly-spreading medical crisis in the African desert. A bouncy attitude augments non-stop thrills, escapes, and investigative heroics.

In the final days of the American Civil War, the Confederate ironclad ship Texas is the last vessel to escape the Union naval blockade. The ship disappears, its fate lost to history.

In the present day, ex-Navy buddies Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and Al Giordino (Steve Zahn) work for an underwater exploration company independently funded by the wealthy and retired Admiral James Sandecker (Willam H. Macy). In Nigeria, a shady dealer provides Dirk with a gold coin believed to be from Texas and originating in Mali, where a civil war rages between warlord Kazim (Lennie James) and the Tuareg.

Concurrently, World Health Organization doctor Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) is investigating a deadly disease spreading in the area, and she hitches a ride into Mali with Dirk and Al. Businessman Yves Massarde (Lambert Wilson), a Kazim ally, is not pleased to see Dr. Rojas and the ship hunters poking into his affairs and sets out to stop them by all means necessary.

An adaptation of the Clive Cussler book, Sahara carries a glossy Indiana Jones vibe and a strong sense of fun. Although the troubled and over-budget production resulted in four credited writers and multiple law suits, the film is a rollicking and enjoyable thrill ride. Director Breck Eisner makes good use of gorgeous scenery and adopts a galloping pace to keep up with the wild material, leveraging the joint charisma of stars Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn to deliver multiple highlights.

And it is the lead duo that differentiates Sahara. Beyond bantering buddies, thorny friends, and leader-sidekick dynamics, Dirk and Al are a (mostly) well-oiled partnership adept at on-the-fly problem solving and improvisation. Zahn adds scrappy charm, wit, and inventiveness, perfectly complementing McConaughey's bold self-assurance as they work their way out of seemingly impossible jams.

The plots threads together two stories, an urgent investigation of a spreading disease merging with a more playful - if not self-consciously bizarre - search for a lost Confederate war ship that somehow ended up in the African desert. Penelope Cruz as Dr. Rojas carries the weight of the medical quest, but is only modestly successful at transforming the duo into a trio while providing the requisite romantic interest.

The action highlights are all ridiculous, ridiculously fun, and spiked with sometimes wicked humour. On the Niger river, Dirk and Al tangle with several of Kazim's power boats plus one technical machine gun. Stunt performers have fun with a camel-enabled train take-over. A desert escape features the cargo bed of a pick-up truck then a plane wreck turned into a land yacht. An impressively massive solar-powered facility is discovered in the desert, setting up a raucous finale, which is then upstaged by the real climax in the desert, where old and new technology meet on the battlefield.

Devoid of any demands for intellectual or emotional commitment, Sahara bounces on the dunes of exhilaration.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.