Dan Movie Reviews

Went to see Sahara tonight with Edgar. I’ve been a fan of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt Adventures for years, ever since I was like twelve years old or something. I’ve read all of them – and after a while, they start to blur, but they’re always cool. After the debacle that was Raise the Titanic, Cussler reportedly said he’d never let anyone make another adaptation of his novels. Obviously that changed, and Sahara was made.

Unfortunately, it also turned out that Cussler’s involvement has been an issue, with him even filing a lawsuit to try to stop the film, due to alleged breach of contract. On top of it, the final script changed plenty of things from the book – even removing a rather significant plot! (And to add “insult to injury”, apparently Cussler’s daughter had a small cameo in the film, but THAT whole subplot was cut, too!)

But I digress.

As a movie, the film isn’t perfect, but it’s entertaining. Penelope Cruz is a World Health Organization (never referred to by name, interestingly enough – just “W.H.O.”) doctor in Lagos, who thinks that there’s a plague coming from up-river that is killing people. Meanwhile, underwater explorer and hero Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) is searching for The Texas, a civil war confederate ironside that he believes traversed the Atlantic and was lost in – of all places – Africa. The two mysteries collide in a way that will not really have you on the edge-of-your-seat, per se, but certainly will provide a few thrills and fun action sequences.

The best way I can describe the film is this: it’s a Bond film, with out James Bond. There are two villains: a corrupt warlord, and a bad French businessman. There are no gadgets like Q, but there are some cool vehicles and some pretty tense action scenes. The film is shot quite nicely – the Sahara desert providing a beautiful backdrop for many scenes. It’s not quite Indiana Jones, but it looks similar!

Speaking of Bond, the music by Clint Mansell has a definite Bond vibe to it – a large brassy theme, wailing horn hits, and tense orchestral work. It’s a really cool score, and sounds unlike much of his other works – I hope to interview him about this project. There are also a lot of African source bits, ethnic percussion and the like. It fits a bit better than the predominant source pop songs, and there was more than one sequence that felt like it could really have benefitted from score, instead of songs.

If you have not read the book, you’re more likely to enjoy this film as a bit of escapism. If you’re a Cussler fan, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed, unless you can seperate the book from the film. In either case, with not much else out these days, this is certainly 2 hours you won’t feel like you wasted – just be sure to check your brain at the door!