Sahara (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner06/04/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Action-adventure flick starring Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn as a pair of explorers who run into a mysterious plague epidemic while searching Africa for a lost Civil War battleship.

At some point before the promotional campaign for Sahara kicked into full gear, a subtle but indicative change was made. Whereas formerly the strapline on the posters read, "Adventure has a new name: Dirk Pitt", it now says, "Adventure has a new destination". It was probably a wise decision - the original strapline made the film which is in fact a good old fashioned adventure movie sound too much like a spoof. The only problem is that the hero has an unintentionally silly name, courtesy of Clive Cussler, who wrote several pulpy adventure novels featuring Pitt.

Party of Five

The movie is based on one of Cussler's novels and stars Matthew McConaughey as adventurer Dirk Pitt and Steve Zahn as his ever-present best friend and partner Al Giordino. While dredging priceless artefacts off the coast of West Africa for their boss (William H. Macy as Sandecker), Dirk and Al pick up the scent of a long-lost American Civil War battleship and follow it upriver to Mali. They're accompanied by their nerdy sidekick Rudi (Rainn Wilson, the weird lodger from Six Feet Under), as well as a pair of World Health Organisation doctors, Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) and Dr Hopper (Glynn Turman) who are investigating a mysterious plague outbreak.

Star Quality

Matthew McConaughey is extremely well-cast as Pitt, a hero who combines both brains and brawn, albeit with a little more of the latter than the former. McConaughey has a genuine movie star quality that really shines through here (he's worth at least 50 Heath Ledgers). Similarly, Zahn proves that he's one of the best character actors around when it comes to wisecracking sidekicks. His genuine rapport with McConaughey means you really believe in the relationship between Dirk and Al.

Chemistry set

The picture also has that rare thing: two actors falling in love both off screen and on - in this case McConaughey and co-star Penelope Cruz, who met on the film. Cruz is as good here as she's ever been. Feisty, sexy and giving as good as she gets in the action scenes. It doesn't hurt that her accent has improved a lot since Vanilla Sky. Most crucially, she has palpable chemistry with McConaughey, although the film is smart enough to keep the romance to a minimum.

Location, location

The film also makes good use of its locations. One of the best is the solar plant that serves as the de facto ‘lair’ of the movie's villain. As a desert movie, it's a hell of a lot more enjoyable than CGI infested offerings such as The Mummy. The action scenes are well directed and there's a truly terrific, nail-biting climax involving a cannon and a helicopter that's been criminally spoiled by the trailer.

In short, Sahara is a hugely enjoyable, old fashioned adventure movie of the sort that they really don't make anymore. It's worth seeing just for the chemistry between its three leads. Here's hoping they get a proper franchise out of it. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Sahara (12A)
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Content updated: 19/10/2017 06:32

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