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I just want to say right off the top that this movie makes no sense whatsoever. I haven't read the book but the author, Clive Cussler, is suing the movie makers for making changes to the plot that he didn't approve. So maybe he agrees with me. Sahara is pretty entertaining but if you think about the anything that happens on the screen, your brain might hurt. This movie tells the story of a treasure hunter (Matthew McConaughey) who, much like Nicholas Cage in National Treasure, has spent his life obsessively searching for his personal Holy Grail. McConaughey along with his sidekick (Steve Zahn) work for a company run by a former Admiral (William H. Macy) that finds and raises shipwrecks to get their treasure. But McConaughey's real interest is in finding a civil war ironclad, like the USS Monitor and Merrimack, that disappeared right at the end of the war loaded with Confederate gold. Ok, so far so good but McConaughey thinks the ironclad sailed across the Atlantic and disappeared off the African coast. He and Zahn just happen to be in Nigeria doing some business for Macy when two things happen. First, McConaughey gets ahold of a coin from the Confederate ship and second, he meets an awfully attractive doctor (Penelope Cruz) who works for the World Health Organization. Both the doctor and the gold draw McConaughey to Mali where a brutal dictator (Lennie James) is cahoots with an evil industrialist (Lambert Wilson). It all seems to make more sense as I describe it here than it appears on the screen but I left out a lot of stuff about the CIA, African tribes, ebola-like epidemics, toxic waste dumps, lots of explosions, rare antique cars, and best of all, using a cannon from a 150 year-old ship buried in the desert to shoot down a helicopter gunship. Oh dear, I may have spoiled something there.
But who cares. Sahara is a mess of movie that is only saved at all by the infectious joie de vivre of McConaughey and Zahn. These two actors had a lot of fun making Sahara and it comes across on the screen. McConaughey has that amazing smile and Zahn is a total nutcase. I do like McConaughey. If you want to see him at his best, rent EdTV, possibly the most prescient film ever. This film, made in 1999 and directed by Ron Howard, was a bomb at the box office but it amazingly predicts the whole reality TV craze. Where was I? Oh ya. In Sahara, Penelope Cruz starts out looking like she is wondering why she signed up to make this movie but by the end she is a nutcase too, possibly because she had taken a shine to McConaughey. She and Matthew are now an item. William H. Macy definitely looks like he can't believe he's making this movie and since he doesn't get Cruz or McConaughey, his demeanor doesn't change. The director of Sahara is Breck Eisner, as in Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney. Breck is Michael's son and seems to be named after a shampoo. Otherwise, he is a graduate of the USC School of Cinema-Television. Maybe he should go back to school. Like I said, Sahara isn't boring but at every plot twist, you say, "What?" Zahn (Happy Texas) steals every scene he is in and almost makes Sahara worth seeing. Cruz continues the tradition of African aid workers who look like supermodels. See, for example, last season on ER when Dr. Carter goes to Africa and meets Thandie Newton, Mary McCormack et al. Besides Macy, other familiar faces in Sahara are Delroy Lindo as a CIA agent and Lambert Wilson, the evil industrialist, who is instantly recognizable as The Nerving.Sahara is the number two movie this week but I think it would be better as a rental some Saturday night. National Treasure was a much better movie.