like Sahara aims to fly under the critical radar
by wearing a badge of being “pure mindless fun.”
This is the modus operandi of many popcorn style films,
and frankly, it’s a cop out. Just because a film is
intended to be nothing more than entertainment does not
give all parties involved a justified excuse to go on autopilot.
frankly, Sahara left me parched.
Yes. Fun? Hardly. All life is completely sapped from the
film as the characters progress through plot point after
plot point with no other motivation than progressing to
the conclusion of the film. And what a conclusion it is.
Anti-climactic doesn’t begin to describe the outcomes
here. The Paramount Pictures marketing department is having
a field day with this film, touting it as a cross between
Raiders of the Lost Ark and recent digital franchise
The Mummy. As much as I disliked The Mummy,
at least it was fun.
film is an adaptation of a novel by Clive Cussler, and having
never picked up any of the author’s novels there is
little to discuss about the quality of adaptation employed
here. However it is important to note that the process of
adaptation can sometimes muddy the waters so much that the
end result is a complete mess.
and Gentlemen, I give you Sahara.
Eisner, the man behind the sci-fi TV series Taken
is at the helm for this effort, and the film feels clunky,
almost encumbered at times. Matthew McConaughey plays Dirk
Pitt, an adventurer-slash-treasure hunter hybrid whose day
job consists of unearthing buried artifacts from the ocean
and his fellow adventurer, Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), find
themselves intertwined in the a conflict between a Mali
dictator named General Kazim (Lennie James), an entrepreneur
(Lambert Wilson) whose efforts to find cheap labor result
in eco-terrorism, and Eva Rojas, a doctor working for the
World Health Organization (the W.H.O.?). Eva has stumbled
upon what she believes to be a plague spreading throughout
Africa, and to make matters worse, the source of the plague
appears to be nestled somewhere amidst a Civil War taking
place in Mali.
of Civil Wars, Dirk and Al are swept up into the mess while
entertaining one of Dirk’s hunches which he hopes
will lead him to his finding an artifact he’s sought
after his entire career, a missing Ironclad boat from our
very own Civil War. A Civil War era boat found its way to
Africa? Don’t ask.
for everyone, Dirk’s hunches are always correct. In
fact, things come so easily to Dirk that he merely need
to throw dynamite at random into the sand to unearth artifacts
that had been lost to the rest of the world for hundreds
of years. If treasure hunting were this easy, we would all
and company want us to swallow Dirk Pitt as an Indiana Jones
type of lovable, gruff, swashbuckling hero, and it doesn’t
work. If Steve Zissou was Jacques Cousteau via pot smoking
and Brazilian translated Bowie renditions, then Dirk Pitt
is Indiana Jones by way of tequila swilling and country-fried
Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes. And that’s it. Nothing more,
nothing less. In fact, it feels as though Dirk has been
slapped on-screen as the prototypical hero for all to accept
willingly and without question.
brings his usual good ol’ boy charm to Dirk, the problem
is that there just isn’t enough of Dirk to really
connect with. We know that he has strived his entire carrier
to locate a lost Civil War Ironclad boat that disappeared
during the last blockade run of the war, but that is just
the sort of superficial plot device that we all know will
be wrapped up neatly by the closing credits, isn’t
else is there to Dirk? His lifelong pal Al should add some
flavor to Dirk’s past, perhaps enough for us to crack
his shell open enough to find something to like? Nope. Try
as he might, the usually hilarious Zahn flounders to add
something worthwhile to Sahara to no avail. He
gets practically all the laughs, but none are truly side-splittingly
laugh out loud hilarious. The yuks tend to come in just
below the average “buddy situation” style banter,
which is not a good sign for a film with such little plot
to begin with.
perhaps a little romance with Eva will aid to unlocking
the secrets to our beloved hero? Not likely. These two fail
to connect in any significant way while traversing up river,
and when it comes time for them to part, a half-handed attempt
to connect the dots is thrown in so the audience will know
that Dirk cares for Eva, sort of. It’s a throwaway
moment with Dirk rambling on about a beach and a house on
the beach, basically implying that he and Eva should spend
some time there together, you know, after the find they
treasure and Dirk saves the day, right? This is all thrown
in so that audiences will feel the correct perfunctory responses
at the right time, and the ruse shows shamelessly.