Movie Review: Sahara (2005)

SaharaSahara (2005)

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, Penelope Cruz, William H. Macy, Delroy Lindo and The Merovingian.

Written by Clive Cussler (novel) and Thomas Dean Donnelly (screenplay).

Directed by Breck Eisner.

It’s been quite some time since I last read one of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels. I remember “discovering” them in my late teens and plowing through several of them (Raise the Titanic!, Iceberg and a couple others). Like most of what I read in those days, I can recall only vague details of the stories. What I do remember is that I enjoyed them a great deal. Dirk Pitt was the quintessential man’s man, and his best friend/sidekick Al Giordino was fiercely loyal and utterly dependable.

When I saw the trailer for Sahara several months ago, I was very interested to see how Pitt, Giordino and the other regulars from the series would translate to the screen. I don’t know that Matthew McConaughey would have been my first choice to portray Pitt, but I was more concerned that casting Steve Zahn as Al Giordino would relegate the character to comic relief. The Al that I remember was a short, stocky guy with dark hair and dark skin. The Al living the back of my head was usually quiet and serious; more Kato than C-3PO. In other words, not Steve Zahn.

Whatever Al should have been, I can’t say that I was too disappointed with Zahn in the film version of Sahara (I never read the book, to my recollection). As I expected, he provided a lot of comic relief, but it worked fairly well against McConaughey’s Pitt.

I remember even less about the Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy) and Rudi Gunn (Rainn Wilson, who reminds me a lot of Steven Page from Barenaked Ladies) characters than I do about Giordino, so I don’t suppose I can make any kind of comparison between their film and print versions. On screen, I really had no problem with either performance.

Overall, Sahara proved to be an entertaining action flick; not great, but not terrible. I did think that the music was a bit too James Bond-y at times, and the hundred-fifty-year-old treasure a bit too shiny. More than anything, the movie made me want to crack open a Dirk Pitt novel and see whether McConaughey was really a good choice for Pitt and whether or not Al Giordino was as goofy as Steve Zahn.