"Sahara" follows the adventures of Dirk Pitt (McConaughey), a ruggedly handsome outdoorsy guy obsessed with tracking down a Civil War battleship that mysteriously disappeared, which is logical since if it hadnt mysteriously disappeared, Pitt wouldnt really need to track it down, now would he? Along with childhood friend/comic relief pal Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), Pitt spends his days searching for lost artifacts for the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), headed by Admiral James Sandecker (William H Macy), but the desire to uncover the exact whereabouts of the missing ship - nicknamed the Ship of Death (oh yeah, thats real inviting) - is always foremost on his mind.
Dirk and Al track the ship to West Africa where they encounter the lovely Dr. Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz), a relief worker for the World Health Organization (WHO) whos on a hunt of her own. Eva needs to find the source of a mysterious illness sweeping across Africa. Somethings causing thousands of men, women and children to kick the bucket and she needs to find the source quickly as it seems to be spreading at an alarming pace. If Royas and her WHO buddies dont locate the origin of the illness, the disease will spread to America in no more than six months. Gasp!
So weve got a lost battleship with untold wealth concealed in its hull, an epidemic spreading across Africa, and only three people Dirk, Al and Eva on the case. Did I fail to mention theyre up against an African warlord and a powerful evil industrialist? As each minute clicks off Saharas running time, the plot becomes more and more fantastical. But not to worry, after the first 20 or so minutes, the action and comedy take over and any real semblance of a cohesive plot becomes purely incidental anyway.
Im putting down the plot but Im not putting down the movie. Sahara is a surprisingly fun action comedy with a cast that connects. Cruz is cute and shes not forced into the damsel in distress role. As Dr. Rojas, Cruz races around on a camel and does as good a job saving the men around her as they do of taking care of her. McConaugheys got the body, the affable personality, and the boyish sense of adventure to pull off Dirk Pitt. And Steve Zahn Look up comic relief/good buddy in the dictionary and it reads See Zahn, Steve. Okay, it doesnt really but it easily could. Zahns perfected this type of role. He knows when to take it over the top and when to play it subtle, and hes pulled off just the right balance as McConaugheys onscreen buddy.
Director Breck Eisner does a fairly decent job of keeping the action flowing and filling plot holes with one-liners. He also handles the action shots without showing off. Im tired of seeing action films where the director feels the need to include every trick he learned in film school. Saharas action is in your face, gritty, and real.
Having never picked up a Clive Cussler novel, I have no idea if this Sahara is in any way close to Cusslers. Im assuming its not as the author isnt exactly pleased with what the studios done to his book, so Cussler fans might not be happy with this Hollywood version of Cusslers beloved adventurer, Dirk Pitt. But for people who wouldnt know a Dirk Pitt from a Brad Pitt, this action-filled thrill ride is an entertaining, albeit non-taxing, way to spend a few hours.
"Sahara" was directed by Breck Eisner and is rated PG-13 for action violence.