Sahara tells the story of Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and his buddy Al Giordino (Steve Zahn) as they travel to a country called Mali in search for what the locals call “The Ship of Death”. This “Ship of Death” is a lost Civil War ship named the CSS Texas that has a huge cargo of what was thought to be gold. Once there, Dirk and his buddy run into Doctor Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) who’s about to be executed for muddling in business that is, well, none of her business.
This “business” turns out to …e rather huge, with ruler General Kazim (Lennie James) wanting to rid the ocean of all of its life. He figures that he will accomplish this by releasing this virus into the water system and, as it flows downstream, it will eventually reach the ocean. Why exactly Kazim wants to do this involves a standard for films such as this… for money. Dirk, Steve, and Doctor Rojas must investigate this disease and decide why it is not only infecting the water system, but causing a vast amount of pollution to the area and its surroundings. Add in a few explosions, chase scenes, and a pretty cool ending battle sequence and there you have Sahara
Sahara, to sum it up in one word, is dumb. Don’t get me wrong though, it is dumb in a good kind of way. Sure the film’s plot has been seen before (the hero must stop the evil man who wants to kill something so he can make a lot of money), but Sahara relies on big explosions, some funny antics from Steve’s character and a few gorgeous scenes of either for females, Matthe McConaughey, or for males, Penelope Cruz. Compared to recent adventure type films like National Treasure, Sahara was interesting for the two hours I spent watching it as it contained just enough plot, character development, and action to make the film perfect for a dreary day or a day you want to show off your HT setup.
The 2.35:1 1080p transfer on this HD-DVD of Sahara is great. There are vibrant, bright colors at each and every bright scene due to the desert setting. Again, with a majority of HD-DVD titles thus far, Sahara benefits from a new print thus allowing a lot of the material that’s being presented to look, well, excellent. One particular favorite scene of mine was the final battle sequence. As the airplane flies over and over the bright scenery, we’re treated to gorgeous imagery. I tried over and over to find a flaw in this transfer, and the only I could find were sharpness and edge enhancement in a few scenes. Otherwise from this, Sahara showcases just how good HD can look.
Similar to The Italian Job, Paramount has decided to include both a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio tracks. While the DTS track is rather bright (especially in the ending sequence), the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 really blows it away. Due to this film being a fairly heavy action film, explosions ring and bullets fly in numerous scenes. Dialogue was surprisingly clean and clear, which is sometimes a troublesome portion of action heavy films. Even though I had to turn up/down the volume a few times, the action heavy scenes rocked my sub and literally shook my living room. Similar to the video, Paramount has delivered a nearly perfect audio presentation.
- Audio Commentary with Director Breck Eisner: Out of the two available audio commentary tracks, I found this first one (possibly because it only included the director) to be rather interesting instead of somewhat dull like the second. Eisner gives us loads of information on the production sets, themes and casting.
- Audio Commentary with Director Breck Eisner and Actor Matthew McConaughey: Like I mentioned above, this commentary was rather boring and I found myself skipping portions at a time wondering when the track would get as interesting as the first. There were numerous times when it seemed like McConaughey would ramble on about days shooting instead of speaking about the film at hand (thematic issue wise).
- Sands of Sahara: This marks the first of three featurettes about the film at hand. This particular portion focuses on the actual locales.
- Visualizing Sahara: This feature focuses on the visual concepts of the film including the special effects and scenery.
- Cast and Crew Wrap Film: I was wondering when something involving the actors would appear. Low and behold, here it is.
- Deleted Scenes: Five whole minutes of completely unnecessary scenes.
- Camel Chase: This five minute video type diary focuses on the film’s camel chase.
- Animatics: Here we’re treated to two animatics of ‘Opening Scene’ and ‘Train Jump’. The presented information is in still image format with dialogue and the film’s score running in behind.
- Storyboard Comparisons: Here we get three different comparisons via ‘Gun Fight at the Wall’, ‘Finding the Iron Clad’, and ‘Dirk Rescues Eva on the Beach’. These scenes run in comparison to their film sequences.
- Trailer: Another trailer in HD!:
Sahara provides a good amount of entertainment for its running time. While not as good as the recent Mummy, the film still holds its own for a majority of the film. With impressive video, audio, and exclusive HD features, Paramount has delivered a great all around package that comes with a recommendation.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary with Director Breck Eisner
- Audio Commentary with Director Breck Eisner and Actor Matthew McConaughey
- Sands of Sahara
- Visualizing Sahara
- Cast and Crew Wrap Film
- Deleted Scenes
- Camel Chase
- Storyboard Comparisons