Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

Blinded by sand storms of action, with a political undercurrent, may lead the audience to think that this dune has some depth to it. It doesn't.

Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn as Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino are a nice double act. Dirk, the action man with sex appeal, fronts the show, with Al as his shorter, funnier, geekier sidekick. This pairing makes up for the nature of the film, which puts action above all else.

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The opening scene takes us back to the end of the American Civil War. With cannon fire more explosive than the typical Jerry Bruckheimer movie, this is an electrifying, if historically inaccurate, introduction. From the very start, it's a popcorn adventure yarn, with the occasional extended dialogue exchange, which tries too hard to mean something - anything - when quite clearly it's as empty as a seashell.

Whereas the action in Flight Of The Phoenix crashed and burned, Sahara has you on the edge of your seat. The gunfire is loud and rapid, the scenes tense because we care about Dirk and his buddy and even the superficial Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz).

Although the action is rugged and raw, Dirk and Al seem to be immortal. Thousands of bullets are fired at them and yet they remain unscathed. This decreases the suspense to a cynical degree and it's impossible not to want Al to take a bullet in the shoulder, or stomach, and have him close to death for a few minutes, just to instil a sense of humanity into the proceedings

The political element adds intrigue but, ultimately, is secondary to the action. Dirk and Al are not interested in the cause that they fight for, and you can imagine that it is Eva who is doing all of the demonstrating on that campaign. Nonetheless, our hero does have a Captain Planet side to him and this leads us to sympathise with him a little more.

The supporting cast are unenthusiastic about their performances, as well they might be. McConaughey has the body for action movies, but is yet to find his stride. Dirk has none of the character flaws that make John McClane, or Indiana Jones, heroes. If Sahara makes money, Dirk will be back on the big screen again, hopefully with a drug addiction of some description to add another dimension to his bland good nature.

This is Breck Eisner's second film. His first sunk without trace, but was enjoyable nonetheless. He has not yet laid claim to an identifiable technique that would set him apart from the crowd and seems to be riding on the wave of past films. There are some nice touches, however, such as the audience seeing Dirk beat off two bad guys entirely from the point of view of an injured Eva, but this does not last as Eisner succumbs to the urge of showing off his big budget.

The script needs more character development and the film a touch of realism in order to add more tension to its action sequences. The brutality is arresting, but the disregard for human life contrasts unrealistically with Al's inability to die, just like a sidekick should.

A fun ride, open and shut, Sahara is nothing more than it appears to be.

Reviewed on: 19 Apr 2005
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An adventure yarn, with extreme treasure hunters and a beautiful doctor on a life saving mission.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Breck Eisner

Writer: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, John C Richards, James V Hart, based on the novel by Clive Cussler

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, Penelope Cruz, Lambert Wilson, William H Macy, Glynn Turman, Delroy Lindo, Lennie James, Clint Dyer, Patrick Malahide

Year: 2005

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US/Spain


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