(Breck Eisner, USA, 2005)


This adventure epic starts withering very early on.

Eva (Penelope Cruz), a feisty health worker, foolishly sets off alone in the Saharan sands to investigate a suspicious death. Instantly, a villain swathed in robes begins menacing her – and, just as instantly, buffed-up Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) emerges from the water, bare-chested and all-powerful, to save her.

Based on a popular novel by Clive Cussler, this is mainstream cinema at its very worst. A poorly plotted intrigue clumsily entwines Eva's righteous crusade to save a population from mass poisoning with Dirk's boyishly enthusiastic quest to find a lost boat. The unbearable Steve Zahn is along for the ride as Al, Dirk's wisecracking, gormless best friend.

Sahara is one of those Hollywood movies that keeps desperately trying to pretend that it is not a tired example of the same old sexist-racist nonsense. Eva may not scream whenever danger looms, but she still depends on Dirk to rescue her every time. And although the bad guys mumble statements like "the rest of the world does not care about Africa" to justify their evil ways, this movie could not care less about it either.

In a memorably risible moment, the concerned Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy) warns a representative of the US government that, if the spread of a dangerous toxin is not halted, "it will be halfway to New York in six months". Never mind that, by that stage, it would have already devastated the entire African continent.

© Adrian Martin April 2005

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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