Based on the novel by Clive Cussler, Sahara is a popcorn movie at its purest level. It is equal parts National Treasure and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and God help me, I actually got a kick from watching it. To give you an idea of its popularity, it was nominated for several Teen Choice awards.
I understand that I mock, but I do care a little bit. Dirk (Matthew McConaughey, A Time to Kill and Al (Steve Zahn, Out of Sight) are childhood friends t…at went through school and the Navy, and now are marine salvage experts for historical artifacts, working for their old Navy boss (William H. Macy, Magnolia). Dirk has a long-running goal of finding an old civil-war era boat that somehow ended up in Africa, but no one has ever seen it.
Complicating things is the presence of the World Health Organization in the small African nation of Mali, an imaginative country in Africa in the midst of a civil war. The WHO is represented by two doctors, one being Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz, Vanilla Sky). They discover the people of that country are dying from an Ebola-like virus, and attempt to investigate the source.
Directed by Breck Eisner, whose only other notable film credit was as a PA on Tango & Cash, the film is OK for what it is, and it’s a cute little action film. McConaughey and Zahn get along well together, and Zahn’s sense of humor really lends itself to a film that’s almost two hours long. It’s a change of pace from some other films you may watch, and similar films may be better, but this is harmless junk food that’s fun to watch.
Quite a strong Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack here, as the explosions had a lot of subwoofer activity, and there’s a lot of panning in the action scenes. The scenes that mostly contain dialogue sound a little bit muted so you’ve gotta turn your receiver up, but it’s a forgivable sin.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen viewing for the film looks very good. Many scenes are free of artifact issues and contain a lot of detail. The scenes that show off the desert landscape look great and consistently sharp.
Eisner does a commentary track on his own, and joins McConaughey for another. McConaughey, who also served as Executive Producer for the film, doesn’t provide too much new detail for the film, but it’s clear that everyone enjoyed this trip to Spain and Africa at the bill of Paramount. The usual joking between two people on a film is more than present here, and you’d expect McConaughey could contribute more to the commentary, but doesn’t really, and it’s a mild disappointment. There’s a featurette called Across the Sands of Sahara that misspells the word Morocco, and the cast and crew recalls the oppressive heat and drastic weather conditions that occurred while they filmed. It’s also a look at the making of the film itself, and McConaughey’s quest to get the role and rights to the book. The cast and crew share the usual thoughts on the film and each other, and is pretty reminiscent of a cookie-cutter EPK type presentation. At 15 minutes, it’s a little on the short side, but it’s fairly entertaining. Visualizing Sahara covers the storyboards, location scouting, computer animatics and previsuals, wardrobe designs, and other conceptual looks at the shots in the film. It helps to give you an idea of just the type of effort put into the film. There’s also a 10 minute wrap film that provides some memories for the cast and crew goofing around but doesn’t have anything too funny in it. Four deleted scenes that run about 5 minutes overall follow, along with previews for The Honeymooners, No Direction Home and The Longest Yard.
It’s not too bad of a film, but as far as action films go, there have been better ones recently. Definitely a recommended rental for some of Zahn’s scene stealing and the picture quality, and fans of McConaughey will like this too.
Special Features List
- Director Commentary