"Smart, Funny and Energetic"
Sometimes a movie comes along that is so entertaining that you don’t mind the coincidences that pile up or the plot’s inconsistencies and discrepancies. SAHARA, based on the popular Clive Cussler book and starring Matthew McConaughey as Dirk Pitt, Cussler’s devil-may-care hero, is just such a picture. The plot is sometimes questionable and there are one too many coincidences, but the movie is the most entertaining, humorous action thriller to come along in some time. The enthusiasm of the filmmakers and actors is so utterly infectious that audiences may not want the movie to end.
The story opens with a World Health Organization doctor, Dr. Eva Rojas (played by Penelope Cruz), and her boss, Dr. Frank Hopper, investigating the potential outbreak of a devastating disease along the Niger River in West Africa below Algeria. While seeking out the source of the disease, Dr. Rojas is attacked by two men on the beach. Just in time, the hero, Dirk Pitt, an ex Navy Seal, dispatches the two men.
Dirk and his buddy, Al Giordino (played by Steve Zahn), are just finishing a project for their boss, retired Admiral Sandecker, head of a private salvage business called NUMA, short for National Underwater and Marine Agency. Eva briefly meets Dirk and Al, but Dirk quickly goes off in pursuit of a gold Civil War coin that he thinks may belong to the last Confederate ironclad ship which may have been lost off the African coast.
Dirk confirms that the coin is a Confederate coin, one of only four that were made (or so he thinks). A clue found in the historical records of the local Muslim mosque leads Dirk and Al upriver on one of the Admiral’s small but fast river boats. Dr. Rojas and Dr. Hopper hitch a ride with them, because the possible location of the ironclad is the same location where Dr. Rojas thinks the disease originated. The problem is, that area is located in Mali, which is in the midst of a civil war because an evil general has assassinated the president and taken over the country, which he now rules with an iron fist.
Dirk’s search for the Confederate ship is interrupted when the general tries to stop Dr. Rojas and Dr. Hopper from finding the source of the plague. The general is in cahoots with a slick French businessman whose fancy new solar energy plant is poisoning the Niger River with tons of chemical waste. The general’s men kill Dr. Hopper, which leaves only Dirk and Al to protect Eva and save the day. Their situation becomes really desperate when they find out that the chemical waste is spreading downriver to the Atlantic Ocean and may even spread the plague across the ocean to the United States.
SAHARA is a hugely entertaining, spirited action flick that gives new meaning to the term high energy. It is also funny, smart and exhilarating. The bad guys are menacing, the heroes are clever people with a keen sense of humor, and the action is non-stop. Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn make the perfect team, and Penelope Cruz has never been more appealing than she is here. First-time director Breck Eisner, who also directed Steven Spielberg’s critically acclaimed TV miniseries about aliens, TAKEN, and happens to be the son of retiring Disney chief Michael Eisner, does a great job in keeping the action moving and making the audience care what happens to Clive Cussler’s engaging characters. Eisner effectively uses music to punctuate the movie’s robust action scenes.
SAHARA has some light foul language and contains plenty of action violence, so it requires a caution for children. Its hero, however, is a compassionate man who is willing to help others, even if it means risking his own life.
SAHARA really rocks. The movie’s ad campaign proclaims, “Adventure has a new name.” For once, they aren’t lying.
(BB, C, P, E, FR, LL, VV, N, A, D, M) Strong moral worldview where hero goes to help others at great risk to himself instead of seeking the treasure, with untranslated Christian prayer over disease victims ends in a clear “Amen” and some other redemptive qualities, and light pro-American content where the two heroes are ex Navy Seals who must save the United States, Africa and the Atlantic Ocean from a plague caused by chemical waste, as well as environmentalist issues brought up and two men claim that a deadly chemical in a river could spread all across the ocean, which seems highly unlikely, but the chemical waste comes from a solar energy plant, and light false religion content includes brief positive depiction of Muslims in prayer and hero finds helpful clue in historical records in a mosque; 14 light obscenities (mostly H E double hockey sticks), one strong profanity and six light profanities (including one profanity in lyrics to Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama”); violence includes a few images of sores on skin, bloodshot eyeballs and dead victims of plague caused by chemical waste and plenty of action violence such as cannons fire during Civil War scenes, cannons bounce off and shake Confederate ironclad ship, machine gun fire, off-screen murder, boat chase with machine gun fire and explosions, and, helicopter fires at people in wrecked ship and people in ship fire backs; no sex, but couple in swimsuits kisses on beach; upper male nudity, part of man’s rear nudity shows while he’s bending down to work on machine and woman in bikini with man in swimsuit; alcohol use; smoking; and, kidnapping, lying and government bureaucrats drag their feet in a crisis.
SAHARA, based on Clive Cussler’s blockbuster novel, stars Matthew McConaughey as Cussler’s seafaring hero, Dirk Pitt. Steve Zahn co-stars as Dirk’s sarcastic, lovable sidekick, All Giordino. While hunting for a lost Confederate ironclad ship in West Africa, Dirk and Al are forced to forego their treasure hunt when a United Nations doctor, played by Penelope Cruz, runs afoul of an evil African warlord and his slick French business partner. The doctor has found that the two villains are running a solar energy plant that’s spewing chemical waste into the Niger River, causing a plague that may get out of control.
SAHARA is a slam-bang, hugely entertaining action flick that gives new meaning to the term high energy. It is also funny, smart and exhilarating. Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn make the perfect team, and Penelope Cruz has never been more appealing. First-time director Breck Eisner does a fabulous job. Despite some light foul language, one strong profanity and plenty of action violence, SAHARA is a worthwhile entertainment with a crazy, but compassionate hero who is willing to help others, even if it means risking his own life and foregoing the treasure. SAHARA really rocks.