Sahara (2005) Breck Eisner
Production Costs: $130 million
Worldwide Gross: $119 million
Subsequent Earnings: $ 53 million
Clive Cussler wrote a series of popular books (none of which I have read) that have his version of Indiana Jones called Dirk Pitt (that’s the best name he could come up with?) Dirk Pitt was the hero of another book/movie Raise the Titanic. Cussler rejected many drafts of Sahara but one was eventually picked up by Paramount. Paramount really wanted Hugh Jackman to be Dirk Pitt and they waited a long time for him to clear up his schedule and he never did. Then they wanted Tom Cruise, and finally settled on Matthew McCounaougagouanoghey. Sorry, his name is difficult to spell. The shoot lasted three and a half months as the untested Eisner shot in Morocco, Spain, and London. The movie received mostly negative reviews and maybe people had already had their fill of this story when it was called National Treasure. Clive Cussler later sued over the script Paramount used for Sahara.
Is it any good? This is another guilty pleasure. The plot makes absolutely no frackin’ sense! There is a civil war ironclad full of gold that somehow made it to Africa. There is something to do about the Merovingian dumping toxic waste that will eventually pollute the whole ocean and the West Africans are trying to kill Penelope Cruz and I don’t know. I don’t know how any of this would make sense in the novel either. The writers must have really screwed up because this made no sense. But it satisfies me on the base level of watching stuff blow up. It’s dumb, I know.
Okay so I’ve kind of started reading Clive Cussler since my original review. So while I’m not an expert, I do know a bit more about what its all about. To boil it down in extremely simplistic terms, Dirk Pitt is an aquatic version of Indiana Jones. He is grounded in Cussler’s real life experiences with NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency) where he has discovered more than 60 shipwrecks. Dirk is a more romanticized version where he is more action oriented, badass for the guys, and suave toward the ladies. He also takes his interest in marine archeology and also spices it up with spy plots and alternate histories (Atlantis for example).
It is strange that McConaughey considers himself so keen on the books (a major producer and interested in doing sequels) when it really doesn’t seem that faithful. In fact, it was so bad Cussler asked readers to boycott the film and he sued Crusader Entertainment for the rights. In the end Cussler had to pay Crusader in a countersuit for his boycott of the product.
To say this plot is stupid is somehow an insult to Uwe Boll movies. At least Cussler tries to explain his ludicrous plots with silly pseudo science and tweaking of history. Here its like they just don’t give a shit. How did the ironclad get across the Atlantic? Never explained. Then you have moments where logic seems to leap out the window. Like when they fire a 150 year old rusted cannon at an attack helicopter and blow it up. Or when they rebuild a broken airplane to be some bizarre wind glider. These things come out of nowhere and make you believe the writers were smoking as much dope as McConaughey. The ironclad plot (which should be the main plot) almost becomes a C. plot when all is said and done. After all there is no tension for finding it. No one else is looking for it and it is in no danger of being destroyed or something. So all the focus goes into this side plot about Africans being poisoned by pollution by the Merovingian.
Now while this plot is ludicrous and kills it as a Dirk Pitt story, I can still kind of be entertained in a dumb campy action movie kind of way. Like I said, its like the writers acknowledge it is pure fantasy cheese and they make no excuses for it. So you basically have McConaughy and Zahn going from one silly action scene to another. To their credit they have some good chemistry. Zahn is usually annoying as hell, but here he seems to have toned it down which helps. He gives wise crack remarks but he is actually useful to Pitt as a companion.
I was kind of struggling to come up with things to say because there are only so many times you can say ‘dumb action movie’ before it gets a tad repetitive. I can see why many would skip on this movie. That being said, this isn’t the worst thing in the world. There are worse ways to waste my time. It is a paint by numbers action flick with a certain flavor to draw in Clive Cussler fans. Take it for what it is and you may enjoy it.