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Clive Cussler novels turned into movies seems like a great idea. His books are full of colorful characters, beautiful vistas, insane stunts, and some of the best "buddy" banter around.
Originally when Sahara was being brought to the big screen, Hugh Jackman was slated to play Dirk Pitt, the charismatic treasure hunter, but the movie was delayed due to 9/11, and suddenly Jackman had other engagements, like the highbrow art film X2.
So who would play Dirk, the workingman's Indiana Jones?
Why, Matthew McConaughey of course! Why didn't I think of that?
Oh, I didn't think of that because he would have probably been pretty low on my list of replacements, that's why!
Steve Zahn was a perfect fit for the sidekick Al Giordino, but McConaughey? C'mon! But...with an open mind I settled into my seat and gave it a shot.
Sahara finds our two adventurers between undersea jobs, giving them an opportunity to chase after Dirk's dream haul, a so-far undiscovered ironclad ship from the Civil War that he believes sunk off the coast of Africa. There's plenty of that "science" stuff to explain how something so heavy and cumbersome made it all the way to Africa.
Meanwhile, also in Africa, do-gooder Eva Rojas (played by Penelope Cruz) believes that a modern day plague is starting in Africa, and tries to tell the authorities to help out. Bah! Warlords and diplomats don't have time for this crap!
Ah, but Dirk Pitt does. Could it be that his heart of gold allows him to let treasure seeking take a back seat to saving the world? Or perhaps it was those big brown eyes of Cruz.
Either way, our heroes sidetrack with the good doctor and soon discover that there are some heavily armed blood-hungry bad dudes out to stop the doc. Let the bullets fly and set stuff on fire, it's time for some great adventures!
Some liberties were taken with Cussler's original story, but the meat of the tale is there, and it is a great story. If you haven't read the book, I'd advise seeing the movie first so you're not disappointed. It movies nicely from one narrow escape to the next, and doesn't slow down at all.
The soundtrack mixes some African inspired background music (think "Passion" by Peter Gabriel) with 70s rock tunes, what some of you may refer to as "album oriented rock" or "that crap my parents listen to". Either way, it worked nicely into the mix, and this reviewer enjoyed it thoroughly.
But back to my original fear...casting.
First off, I've never been a huge Penelope Cruz fan. I don't really see why everybody goes so crazy over her. Sure, she's cute and has an accent, but in my opinion, that's all she's got going for her...but for the role of heroine, that's all ya need! I don't think she'll be burning a path to the Oscars for this role, but she wasn't horrible either.
Next up was the team of Dirk and Al. Reading the novels, I never envisioned McConaughey and Zahn in these roles...but dammit, it worked! McConaughey really WAS Dirk Pitt for a couple of hours, and Zahn had the smart-mouthed but loyal sidekick down to a science. They really do justice to the characters, and I'd like to see them reprise their roles if any other Dirk Pitt adventures make it to the big screen.
I was well prepared to hate this movie, but it won me over! It's a great, semi-mindless desert adventure full of daring escapes and over the top special effects. If you're craving some Indiana Jones-esque adventure movies (and National Treasure left you wanting more) give Sahara a try.
Added: Monday, April 11, 2005
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