An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            The makers of “Sahara” exaggerate nearly every imaginable cliché from action pictures past and then blow it to smithereens.  In deliberate imitation of the Indiana Jones series, Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and Al Giordino (Steve Zahn ) slash their way through impossible adventures.  We know they have nine lives and know also that they won’t lose even one of them.  Given that assurance, the best we can do as audience to this dull movie, is to watch as the two men escape the trouble they create for themselves with often endearing resourcefulness.  If you tire of this, you can stare at Matthew McConaughey’s bright white teeth that look like a smear of white paint. 

            Now and then, Penelope Cruz is aboard as Dr. Ava Rojas, a World Health Organizationdoctor who is searching for the source of what may or may not be a modern plague.  She looks pretty and serious with her reading glasses on, but often reads without them, a sign that the director probably wants her to look pretty but not serious for too long.  Without even a tote in the desert sands, Ava’s jeans and t-shirt are suddenly replaced by a lovely dress and necklace.

            Do not even ask how a civil war submarine made its way to Sahara desert.  It is explained several times, but not so I could understand it.  What we do know is that Dirk, a legendary marine archaeologist, is looking for it.  As he and Al make their way up the Niger River to Mali, they save the life of Dr. Rojas every time they cross her path in the vast landscape – which is often.  After all, one is searching the sands for a sub, the other for the plague.

 When you hear sentences like, “Where’s Dirk?” you know a catastrophe is looming.   I admit to a fleeting moment of affection after a particularly spectacular explosion when our heroes, surveying their handiwork, grin widely and say something really smooth like “Cool.”

You will watch them riding camels in the desert and driving a speedboat up the Niger.  You will see hundreds of horses galloping across the sand, a train running through the sand to a toxic waste plant, and helicopters crashing.  The only thing to recommend this genuinely dull movie is a series of comic escapes from disaster.  Two were especially pleasing:  Dirk and Al, handcuffed to a pickup truck bed and carrying it across the desert, then windsurfing the ruins of an old plane across the same sand on one wheel.

 Whenever our attention begins to flag, they blow something up, and when that fails, you can watch Matthew McConaughey’s teeth.

            Just being in a movie house makes me happy, so I tend to look for the good in what’s up there.   But after a few smiles at the heroes’ resourcefulness and some great aerial shots of the stunts, there is nothing that can erase the fact that Sahara is a truly bad movie.


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