Sahara is one of those movies that really holds nothing special in any way. The inspiration from Indiana Jones is quite obvious, both in setting and the awkward predicaments our heroes get in, but where Steven Spielberg’s titular hero was adulterated fun, Breck Eisner’s (yes, that Eisner) characters fall flat and succumb to genre clichés left and right as the movie’s misleading marketing campaign goes into high gear.

Let me start there. From the very first previews I saw of the film it make it look like a companion of National Treasure in which a group of historians get together to solve a major puzzle. With the rise of The da Vinci code to pop-culture status, who knows how many clones we’ll see in the next five years? Hell, we’re finally making our way to the B-list of comic book stars. Yet, Sahara isn’t anything like National Treasure; sure the movie starts off with a quest to find the last iron-clad ship launched during the Civil War, but it ends up becoming a mixture of Temple of Doom and an Environmental Protection Agency video.

We start off with two separate storylines. There is apparently a plague ravaging an African country torn by civil war, but the world’s health organizations don’t want to put themselves in the line of fire to help these sick people, so one doctor, Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz), takes it upon herself to lead a crusade and save these people. She enlists the help of former-Navy SEALs turned treasure hunters by the names of Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and Al Giordino (Steve Zahn) to help her out. It just so happens that the ship their searching for may be somehow linked to the sickness. As mentioned before, these are merely two-dimensional characters who don’t have any real personality, and besides the banter between Dirk and Al during some pivotal moments, you don’t really get any character development at all.

If you can actually believe it, the two main villains in this film are a corrupted African dictator (how original) and a business man looking to make a lot of money (ditto).

Granted, the film is based on a novel, but most novels are lush with character development and feature enriching dialog as the author paints a picture in your mind, the only thing painted in Sahara is McConaughey’s tan. Still, as much as you try to justify and analyze everything happening on the screen, you’ll be fairly entertained through some of the film, especially when Dirk and Al need to use some ingenuity to get out of a sticky situation. The comedic Zahn basically plays a slightly more serious character variation than he usually does, and isn’t the token wimp of the film this time through. Cruz manages to look good through the course of the film, but doesn’t do much else, and McConaughey’s “cool-boy” acting has gotten him this far, so why change it?

Sahara really is a book of failed promises and lowed expectations, even when you don’t expect that much going in. National Treasure surprised me with how good it actually was, even if the writing needed a few more once-overs by someone with talent, but you still got an entertaining film. This sun-soaked film tried too hard to impersonate others in the genre while never really capturing the audiences imagination and full focus. When there’s something funny on the screen, we laugh, but then go right back to the state we were in. Its like a film of mediocrity with sudden jumps into above-average territory.

By all means, if you are a devoted fan of the genre, rent Sahara when it comes out on DVD, just to get your fix until we finally get a fourth installment of Indiana Jones. If you’ve bought into the hype put out by Paramount about lost treasure and all those who seek it biting the big one you might as well throw those ideals away like a piece of garbage, but be careful, you never know when the EPA will strike.

Written by Erich Becker
Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!