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“Sahara, Dumb Fun in the Sun”
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Official Sahara Movie Website  

 

 

A mirage in the desert still contains merely contains sand. It offers no nourishment or survival for someone stranded. The film adaptation of Clive Cussler’s “Sahara” gives the illusion it contains sustenance when it merely copies every action-adventure film from “King Solomon’s Mines” to James Bond and Indiana Jones sagas. Though not a good film, Sahara nonetheless is an entertaining film.

Eva, a beautiful doctor from the World Health Organization (Penelope Cruz, “Vanilla Sky”), uncovers a deadly plague traveling down the Niger River into Mali. This discovery makes her a target for the Mali warlord. A treasure hunting ex-Navy Seal, Dirk Pitt ( Matthew McConaughey, “A Time To Kill”) prevents an attempt on her life and inadvertently becomes her guardian angel.

Dirk and his partner (Steve Zahn, “Joyride”) have been trekking across the world seeking an American Civil War iron clad ship that may or may not have journeyed across oceans over a hundred years ago. This lost ark-shaped boat should not have made it from the United States to Africa, but they believe the impossible voyage has landed in Mali.

Both Eva and Dirk’s missions collide in the desert as they battle the ruthless army of General Kazim (Lennie James) and the corrupt practices of a businessman (Lambert Wilson).

Television director Breck Eisner moves forward with a sub-par script and manages to infuses it with a joyful inanity. Several set pieces rival James Bond sequences. A boat race raises the heartbeats as Dirk bounces from his yacht to the enemies. There’s also a sharp scene where a rescue is told from the point of view of a strangulation victim. The visuals are milky, upside down with jagged edits, while heavy breathing floods the soundtrack. It’s a visceral experience.

There’s much idiocy, however, with an abundance of contradictions. Pistols shoot more bullets than are possible; people sand-surf downed planes across the dunes; trucks easily disassemble after unscrewing two tiny bolts.

What does not stretch credibility has been lifted directly from other movies. So many clichés have been utilized. People outrun firebombs at the last moment. In a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” rip-off, Dirk fights an enemy beside an approaching helicopter. Even the music blares the muting trombones found in James Bond’s scores.

The biggest problem with “Saraha” is the absence of compelling villains. A cold thug with a crown and a Euro-trash garbage collector would not make James Bond sweat. They wouldn’t make James and the Giant Peach sweat. Neither is particularly charming, witty or threatening. Their army functions as a zombie squad like most 80’s action flicks. They surface like pop-a-moles, shoot off machine guns, nearly-missing targets, then screech as they drop.

Part of what makes “Sahara” enjoyable despite its considerable faults is the chemistry between the three leads. McConaughey, sporting a tan and bleached teeth, portrays the self-absorbed modern swashbuckler with a soft spot when facing inequity. Cruz has rarely been photographed so luminously. She displays buoyancy missing in most her English-language films. Zahn, as the sidekick, tosses off one-liners and steers the boats with ease. None of the three carry any weight, any layers of contradictions, they’ve been designed and enacted to entertain, nothing else.

A fast-paced but thin pre-summer movie, “ Sahara” will bide audiences time as they anxiously await “Revenge of the Sith” in May. Grade: C+

 
 
 
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