Sahara (2005)

(In theaters, April 2005) Clive Cussler’s adventures have always been preposterous, and if this film does one thing well, it’s keeping that trait intact. Civil War-era warships in the Sahara, eco-catastrophe mixed with a civil war and high-tech machinery mixed with low-tech chases and gunfights: It’s all there in glorious adventure-movie ludicrousness. (Those who complain about how far-fetched it is shouldn’t read the novel, which is even more unlikely) It’s all good fun, even though fans of Cussler’s books will howl at the way their favourite characters are portrayed. Everyone, without exception, is miscast: Matthew McConaughey is too boyish as Dirk Pitt, Steve Zahn is too slim as Al Giordino, William H. Macy is too short as Admiral Sandecker, Rainn Wilson too geeky as Rudi Gunn and so on and so forth. It doesn’t mean that they do a bad job (Macy finally gets to play a man who knows what he’s doing, and Steve Zahn steals the show as the wisecracking Giordino) but as far as picturing them as characters… forget it. As far as the plotting is concerned, let’s just say that lapses of logic may be swept over in a novel, but they’re all too apparent in a film. Coincidences, improbable decisions, impossible acts abound throughout this film, problems that the mere label “adventure” can’t adequately cover. This being said, Sahara‘s big-budget large-scale approach still makes the film interesting: As ludicrous as it is, it’s hard not to smile at the improbable stunts and the sense of adventure. The soundtrack has its moments (what with its classic-southern rock fixation) and so does the cinematography. As far as the rest is concerned, though, Sahara ends up being the almost-exact equivalent of Cussler’s novels: Good fun, worth a few hours’ distraction, but hardly something to get excited about.

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