ninth symphony films - movie reviews

SAHARA (2005)

DIRECTOR  -  breck eisner

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  action adventure

LENGTH  -  127 minutes

RELEASED  -  8 april 2005

DISTRIBUTOR  -  paramount pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  sahara

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $130,000,00
sahara - a shot from the film


buy the soundtrack from sahara at

buy the soundtrack from sahara at

master explorer dirk pitt goes on the adventure of a lifetime while seeking out a lost civil war battleship known as the "ship of death."

hugh jackman was once in the running for the lead role of "dirk pitt" until a delay in shooting caused a scheduling conflict for jackman.


picture from sahara

picture from sahara

picture from sahara

picture from sahara

picture from sahara

picture from sahara


three out of four possible stars

The jovial nature and general good humor surrounding the characters of Sahara makes it a difficult task to harbor any ill-will against the flighty film even though it takes its audience on a two-plus hour ride. Somehow the filmmakers have managed to create a mildly diverting and almost goofy adventure where the circumstances go far beyond the impossible with just the sort of mild insanity required of a big-budget action spectacular. Packed with the cinematic vistas, wry quips, and various acts of daring, the film can lay claim to no knew territory as far as popcorn flicks are concerned, but it still hits all the points you'd expect a film like this to cross.

Casting Matthew McConaughey in the lead role of treasure seeker "Dirk Pitt" was nothing if not expected, the actor's shiny locks and leading-man image finding a comfortable home in the irreverent character. Though he doesn't always have the benefit of squeaky fresh dialogue, McConaughey makes it easy to get caught up in Dirk Pitt's adventure, keeping a smile on his face the entire journey. It's rare that audiences are able to come across such a generally happy and excited character in an action adventure film. There's nothing dank and depressing holding this character back from having a rip-roaring great time running haywire through the desert in search of treasure.

Although her performance is appropriate for the film and she shows an increased ability to convey herself through the English language, Spain native Penélope Cruz's casting as "Eva Rojas," a World Health Organization doctor and Dirk Pitt's object of desire, seems questionable given her weak romantic chemistry with McConaughey. Both Cruz and McConaughey have shown themselves adept at creating a believable romantic performance, but those instances were in films other than Sahara, each of them doing so with other actors. Although it's heartening to see Hollywood taking an interest in an actress who wouldn't be considered a conventional beauty, it's almost as if her casting was made entirely independently of McConaughey's.

This is despite the fact that they'd need to connect well with one another on screen for that romantic edge of the film to work. If their characters had never seen it fit to become romantically involved with one another, the film might have been stronger. Perhaps their pairing on screen wasn't entirely kinetic because there simply wasn't enough antagonism between the two in the plot. Unlike the cheeky hatred that exists between the lead romantic duo for much the 1999 blockbuster The Mummy (a movie with a great example of an adventuresome duo with great chemistry), Dirk Pitt and Eva Rojas are never really anything but jovial (and later mildly romantic) with one another. Tepid annoyance is probably even too strong a word to describe their initial meetings.

Allowing Steve Zahn to pick up the reigns as "Al Giordino," Dirk Pitt's partner in adventure, might have been the casting department's smartest move. Although his feet are firmly in the department of Supportive Buddy, Zahn's character is not a helpless comedic sidekick, even though much of the comedy comes from his expert delivery and timing of the goofy and good-natured jokes that populate much of the film. Giordino gets to save the world in just as an important capacity as does Pitt, making their partnership more of an equal alliance than a Batman/Robin type affair.

Supporting performances from a variety of well-chosen actors make sure that the lead actors are in great company, with William H. Macy (as Dirk Pitt's boss) and Delroy Lindo (as a CIA agent) useful additions to the likeable cast of characters. Of course, despite the generally good choices regarding casting, the dialogue just isn't always as strong or crisp as it should have been, given that there seem to have been three separate sets of writers who put the screenplay together (there are four credited screenwriters, two of whom wrote as a duo). Likewise, there are a few plot jumps that were probably created by some difficult editing choices, possibly the result of the editor and director attempting to decrease the running time.

Attempting to invest a mild social conscience into the film's story seems to have plumped the narrative only slightly, as the environmental and political comments on world politics are not as fleshed out with sufficient zeal. But in looking at the overall tone of the movie, accepting it as a [very] early summer popcorn flick is much easier than attempting to find some real value concerning the comments made about American governmental bureaucracy and environmental consciousness. Despite the African warlords, the explosions, the sick and sweaty villagers, and the preponderance of assault rifles, the film's main purpose is to convey a sense of impossible adventure.

And in this very innocent goal, Sahara succeeds. Adventure movies whose stories were once bound to the pages of a novel (this movie is based on the catastrophically popular "Dirk Pitt" novels by Clive Cussler) often have a difficult transition to the screen and lose some of their unique flavor in feature film form. The incredible and impossible lives of people like Dirk Pitt is not always as believable in physical form as it is on the written page. Whereas an author can wax poetically for hundreds of pages and take the time to weave a complete story with a firm plot, that same story must be incredibly condensed. Sahara is good-natured, exciting, and beautifully shot (with a killer classic rock soundtrack), and if you'd rather dig into your popcorn and smile rather than make too much of an effort using your brain, this film is a rewarding adventure.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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