When judging the value and quality of movies, there isn’t a single, definitive litmus test. All films cannot be pitted against one set of rules; chapters in the critic’s book should be divided according to genre. This is where Sahara may run into trouble.
On an absolute scale, the film is an abomination to any type of progressive filmmaking and good cinema of the last 30 years. Its pure escapism doesn’t impact the values, lives or thoughts of the audience. Sahara’s only point is to show some explosions while hot people run around on screen. Honestly.
But this pure escapism, this thinly stretched, highly involved, very-complex-but-easily-explainable tirade of a plot makes for a great Sunday afternoon break from everyday life. If explosions and hot people are all you’re looking for, this movie delivers every bit.
Oh, and it’s funny, too.
Two long-time buddies, Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and sidekick Al (Steve Zahn) are, by chance, paired up with doctor Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) and have three days to find a Civil War battleship buried in the middle of the desert and save the world from a toxic plague worse than the Ebola virus. Piece of cake.
Thank God the plot developments don’t complicate things: The ship is believed to be non-existent, the plague originates in a remote area of a war-torn West African nation and somehow, just somehow, the protagonists get stranded almost immediately. Easy as pie.
As ridiculous as all this sounds, the film manages to not take itself seriously, a redeeming quality for any campy flick.
The lead actors, as usual with these kind of films, could be any male and female Hollywood star with a six-pack and an accent, respectively. The choice of McConaughey and Cruz works well, and the pair have chemistry together and action presence apart.
The key here is the sidekick, Zahn, whose random lines add a perfect element of comedy to balance out action.
Rounding off the cast is William H. Macy as main source of funding Admiral James Sandecker. The Admiral, fortunately, also has a sense of humor, and Macy flawlessly delivers it with just the right blend of his thespian abilities and vaudevillian flair.
The action of the film, as the title indicates, takes place in Africa, and the scenery and views shown throughout the feature are certainly worth mentioning.
While Sahara is not an anthropological study of the Dark Continent and in no way gives any insight into the customs, lives and wars of its people, its general feel carries a positive message. One of the characters, in the midst of doing something very, very evil, mentions that, to his advantage, “No one cares about Africa.” While the film may not spur a nation wide awakening to the troubles the continent is going through, it may plant a seed of empathy in at least a few hearts.
Running time: 127 minutes