Wednesday 26th January 2022

Sahara (12A)
Directed by: Breck Eisner
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz
Matthew McConaughey looking a lot like Dirk Pitt
Matthew McConaughey looking a lot like Dirk Pitt

I was first introduced to the works of Clive Cussler when I read Inca Gold in 1997. It was one of those instantly enjoyable books with plenty of action and an obscenely likeable main character – a guy called Dirk Pitt who is basically a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones, but with more emphasis on the underwater world and scuba diving.

That book prompted me to read the whole series of Dirk Pitt books, and for years I wondered why Hollywood hadn't begun churning out Pitt films, which must be sure fire money-makers. Then I saw a 1980 film called Raise The Titanic, based on one of Cussler's first books, and I realised it was possible to turn a Dirk Pitt novel into a film and end up with a complete turkey.

Quarter of a century later Hollywood is having another crack at Cussler's adventurer, this time with Matthew McConaughey as Pitt and Penelope Cruz as the leading lady. The film opens, like all the books, with a tantalising historical sequence – a maritime enigma that only Pitt can solve – in this case the disappearance of a Confederate ironclad at the end of the American civil war. However, from there on in, the film starts to lose the character of the books.

The storyline of the film follows the book closely enough, with Pitt and his friends searching for the ironclad off the coast of Africa, while Cruz's WHO doctor investigates a deadly viral outbreak in the region. The film swings back and forth between frenetic and exciting action sequences and slower paced scenes in which Pitt and the doctor liaise with the locals to get closer to both the source of the virus and a potential treasure trove.

The problem with Sahara, though, is that the same film could be made identically with any character in the lead role. The makers have not focused on Dirk Pitt at all, meaning he has not been established as the next James Bond or Indiana Jones, and the reflection on the film is that it is a generic action romp that struggles to be memorable. Overall, there's not much to dislike about the film, but ultimately Sahara is not as good as it should have been, and an opportunity has been missed to assure future audiences by realising an unforgettable character.

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Length: 124 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 8th April 2005

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