R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Breck Eisner
scr Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, John C Richards, James V Hart
with Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, Penelope Cruz, Rainn Wilson, William H Macy, Lambert Wilson, Lennie James, Delroy Lindo, Glynn Turman, Clint Dyer, Patrick Malahide, Dayna Cussler
release US/UK 8.Apr.05
05/US Paramount 2h03

Desert rats: Cruz, McConaughey and Zahn

mcconaughey cruz zahn

Click here to buy posters! Support Shadows: Buy a Poster

Sahara There's a ludicrously enjoyable rock & roll vibe throughout this ripping adventure. The story is completely preposterous (what do you expect from a Clive Cussler novel?), but the energetic characters keep us gripped. And we know it's only a matter of time before we hear Lynyrd Skynyrd on the soundtrack--40 minutes to be exact.

Lifelong buddies Dirk and Al (McConaughey and Zahn) travel the world dredging priceless artefacts from the sea with their nerdy sidekick Rudi (Wilson) and their annoyed-but-efficient boss Sandecker (Macy). This particular adventure starts in Nigeria, where Dirk and Al pick up the scent of a long-lost American Civil War ship and follow it upriver into Mali. They're accompanied by WHO doctors (Cruz and Turman) investigating a potentially devastating plague. Throw in a power-mad warlord (James) and a corporate mogul (Wilson), and you just know these plot threads are going to converge.

This is a big, lively romp, filmed in a lushly expansive epic style even though it's basically low-rent James Bond. Several of the eye-grabbing action sequences are perhaps a bit too 007 for their own good, complete with derivative music (and even an overwrought lair for the baddie). The story is loaded with deep improbabilities and conveniences, and it does seem rather odd that oceanic expert and former Navy SEAL Dirk for some reason also has expert knowledge of the desert.

To distract us from these things, the filmmakers pack on the fun and make the most of the engaging cast. McConaughey ripples with muscle, seizing every opportunity to show off his bulging pecs. Zahn does his usual expert comic relief work. Cruz has an impossible amount of hair for a WHO doctor, and despite almost constant peril she remains as feisty and gorgeous as ever. Together they have so much chemistry that it often feels like a Road To movie. It's the kind of film that keeps us gleefully munching our popcorn while we pretend to be excited by the faux suspense and 'surprising' plot turns. And it does indeed leave us hoping it becomes a movie franchise.

cert 12 themes, violence 9.Mar.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Sahara Laurie T, Minneapolis: "just a fun ride at the movies! Lots of entertainment and just plain fun to watch." (23.Apr.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall