Sahara (2005)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/3/07
Director: Breck Eisner
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, Penélope Cruz, William H. Macy

After a long dry spell, this movie was exactly what I needed to relax my weary mind and body - a glossy, light-hearted, fun, and silly action adventure. Dirk Pitt (buff Matthew McConaughey) and his wise-cracking cohort Al Giordino (Steve Zahn) are marine treasure hunters who cross paths with Dr. Eva Rojas (Penélope Cruz) in Northern Africa. Pitt receives a tip about a fabled Civil War ship having made its way to Nigeria, and Dr. Rojas tags along searching for the source of a deadly plague. The government doesn't like the good doctor sniffing around, and soon the trio find themselves relentlessly pursued across the desert by the military. Against all odds they manage to survive the ordeal and save the world from destruction.

First and foremost, this big budget spectacle is gorgeous to look at and the cinematography is splendid. The only place where the cinematography falters is during the sloppy looking and poorly edited fight sequences, which is typical for a Hollywood production. Matthew McConaughey and Penélope Cruz are pleasant and easy on the eye, and Steve Zahn isn't nearly as annoying as I expected him to be. In fact, his exchanges with McConaughey are rather endearing. There's a nicely understated attraction between McConaughey and Cruz, but thankfully the film never wanders off into romance land. The soundtrack is an odd mix of nicely orchestrated James Bond styled music pieces and awkwardly placed 70's classic rock. The rock 'n' roll soundtrack had the unfortunate effect of jerking me back to reality instead of allowing me to remain immersed in the drama of the Sahara Desert. While the action set pieces are nicely staged, they're all too often weighed down by absurdity (a condition that the James Bond franchise also suffers from). The airplane sequence in the desert stands out as particularly goofy. But overall, it's a fun time that doesn't require any thought or emotional investment. Just sit back with a cold drink and enjoy it.