Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Sahara

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence

Reviewed by: Jonanthan Rodriguez
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Action Adventure
Length:
2 hr. 7 min.
Year of Release:
2005
USA Release:
April 8, 2005
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Copyright, Paramount Pictures
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Copyright, Paramount Pictures

deserts in the Bible

Featuring: Matthew McConaughey, Penélope Cruz, Steve Zahn, William H. Macy, Delroy Lindo
Director: Breck Eisner
Producer: Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin, Mace Neufeld, Stephanie Austin, Philip Anschutz
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Dirk Pitt. Adventure has a new name.

It’s getting to be that time of the year again when multiplexes welcome the first wave in the coming onslaught of mindless action/adventure films. Depending on how one feels about that, it could be a good thing. Now, I think everyone can agree that we can’t be expected to suffer through the dreary dramas of winter without looking forward to the films of spring and summer that require we leave logic, and the working parts of our brains, at the door. This is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, because we all have a list of absurd movies we love; a list that if we ever shared with others would probably get us made fun of.

With that said, in sails “Sahara”, the first (at least that I have seen) of what will be many implausible, yet undeniably fun summer films.

I should probably start out by mentioning that I have never actually read any of Clive Cussler’s novels, but, if they are anything like the Matthew McConaughey version of “Sahara,” then they are funny, exciting, full of pulse-racing action scenes and likeable characters, but I would hope they are not quite as contrived.

McConaughey plays Dirk Pitt, master explorer who travels around the world searching for lost historical artifacts with the help of his plucky sidekick Al, played by the generally likeable Steve Zahn. The two have their sights set on a Civil War ironclad ship, that supposedly set sail to Africa after the war, and disappeared somewhere in the Sahara. It is in Africa where they meet Eva, played by Penélope Cruz, a doctor for the World Health Organization who is trying to determine the source of a strange, but deadly, water-based outbreak affecting Africans who had recently visited the country of Mali. The outbreak, if left unattended, could lead to the obliteration of all marine life. The humans who are affected by the plague are dying from a sickness that causes them to get large blisters and open boils, and their glazed-over eyes look like something from an “X-Files” episode.

So, why can’t they just go to Mali and find the problem? The country is experiencing a civil war of its own, and its dictator appears to be in cahoots with a shady European businessman who may or may not have something to do with the outbreak. (We who have watched movies before know he is the bad guy from the beginning, because he dresses nicer than everyone else and has an accent.) So, the trio of Dirk, Al, and Eva set off to discover the source of the outbreak, and hopefully, the historic ship.

The language and sexual content of the film is surprisingly mild. There is little language, with the worst being a few d- and a-words, here and there. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember hearing any uses of the Lord’s name in vain, which was a pleasant surprise. There is no sexual content in the film, although we see a bit of cleavage during one scene.

But, what had me a little concerned, if not somewhat disturbed, was the violent content of the film. Now, I am not talking about the relentless chase scenes, or the scenes where the heroes are getting shot at, because these are scenes found in every summer action film. The only problem I had with the content of “Sahara” was that in the midst of all the mindless action, there are a few very serious scenes that show people being murdered in cold blood.

It is there that “Sahara” lost me. I was enjoying myself, because I have no problem excusing absurdities and improbable scenes in summer action films. because that’s just the way they are. Most of those films play entirely as almost satires or spoofs of themselves. They don’t ask us take them seriously, so we don’t. But when one of the characters is shot while on his knees with his hands tied, “Sahara” changes it’s tone, as if asking to be taken more seriously. It is an uncomfortable scene that felt out of place in the otherwise lightweight movie, and changed the way I viewed the rest of the film. I doubt many people will think twice about the scene when they see it, but for some reason it impacted me more than a scene like that normally would.

If you can look beyond that, I suppose “Sahara” is a refreshingly clean Hollywood effort. Children and teenagers will enjoy it, and their parents won’t really have to worry much about them being exposed to filth. But, for me at least, “Sahara” disappointed in the end. The serious scene caused me to view the implausible ones a bit more harshly than I normally would. There are plenty of conveniences in the plot, not to mention some holes you could fit an old ironclad ship through, and in the end it didn’t quite work for me. If only they had left out that shooting…

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Mild / Sex/nudity: Minor

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I took my youth group to see the movie tonight. Normally I would not approve of a PG-13 movie as a church event, but I have read 90% of Clive Cusslers books and cannot recall any sex or profanity in them. The movie contained several “minor” swear words. H-words, D-words, A-words, maybe 10 total. I didn’t hear any F-bombs or use of the Lord’s name in vain. The violence may be too much for younger viewers, several people are shot (with no blood) and a lot of things blow up. Penélope Cruz only shows cleavage a time or two very briefly, and at the end we see her in a tiny bikini, other than this she is very conservatively clothed in the movie. This movie was a clean overall considering what Hollywood is putting out these days.

It led to a good discussion with my students about what movies are consisting of these days and how some things are “ok” because they’re in the movies, and how as Christians we need to remove ourselves from the world and follow our own standards which were set by Christ.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Andrew, age 26
Positive—My husband and I really enjoyed Sahara.I don’t care what the “professional” movie critics say about it, we thought it was a fun ride of a movie. Nothing really objectionable, pretty clean, only a few swear words here and there.
My Ratings: Better than Average/3½
—Renee, age 37
Positive—Average action movie trying to be original. The comedy was very entertaining throughout the film. I felt mislead when I thought the plot was taking a “ghost ship” twist. The swearing was light. Ms. Cruz is too pretty to be dressing the way she does. All in all it was clean. Good for fifteen years and up.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—Betina Payne, age 19
Positive—This is a fun, fast action flick that had me on the edge of my seat a few times. The best part was the hilarious sidekicks of Dirk, the hero. There are actually several of them, with very funny lines. Penélope Cruz is surprisingly, for me, effective as a WHO doctor searching for the cause of an illness, who gets caught up in all the insane action. William H. Macy is in the midst of it all, to my delight, with his perfectly executed laconic humor. I really enjoyed this movie, and found it to be a blast of entertainment.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
Halyna Barannik, age 59
Positive—My husband and I saw “Sahara” on opening day in the middle of the afternoon. We knew, going in, that it was an adventure-style movie. We were not disappointed. Bottom line: we both enjoyed it! We are pretty discriminating when it comes to movies, but accepted this movie as a fun escape for entertainment value alone—no great moral tale. There was no sex; in fact, the main characters didn’t even kiss until the very last scene. The PG-13 rating is for action-style violence. I remember thinking during the movie that I was surprised at how free of curse words it was. It’s pure fun and nonsense (with lots of explosions), plenty of humor, and good-looking actors. Reminded me of a rip-roaring ride on a great roller-coaster.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Dana Chrysler, age 48
Positive—I found this movie to be very fun. If you liked National Treasure, you’ll love this one! While highly improbable, the movie plot maintains high energy with a steady stream of humor (thanks to Steve Zahn) throughout. Some taking of the Lord’s name in vain but other than that the language was pretty minimal. No racy love scenes or anything I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my 12 year old son see. Go see it… you’ll be glad you did.
My Ratings: Average/3½
—Rachelle Smotherman, age 32
Positive—I thoroughly enjoyed Sahara. I have read all the books and was greatly anticipating how the movie would come out. It was typical, fun action flick with good humor and interesting historical references. The hero saves the girl and helps out oppressed people. I was pleased there were no sex scenes, and the violence was kept moderate. Only one scene where a good character gets shot in cold blood is disturbing. While it doesn’t address any deep spiritual matters it doesn’t promote the normal negative aspects of Hollywood. The characters were well represented in compared to the book…
My Ratings: Average/5
—Jim Palmer, age 35
Positive—Excellent action/adventure movie. No nudity, no sex, action/adventure violence (but typically good vs. evil with good triumphing in the end), only noticed one H word used. It is very refreshing to watch a movie that I feel comfortable going to and recommending to others. We need more movies to be made with this quality of morality, rather than the typical trash that is riddled with sex, gratuitous violence, swearing, and nudity.

I suggest that everyone that visits this site go and support this movie, and perhaps Hollywood will take notice that when they produce clean movies, that it will be attended by more people. When you have a trashy movie, you might get 2 people that go to it, but when you make a clean movie, you might get whole families going to it instead of just the parents or the older teens. So, you will have a chance of 4 or 5 ticket sales instead of only 2. Come on Hollywood, sit up and take notice. All the movies that have no morally offensive content are usually the top box office winners for the first few weeks after opening.
My Ratings: Good/5
—Kelly A. Elder, age 41
Positive—This is an entertaining, fun movie. I plan to see it again and take my older children. It is a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond (without all of the sexual innuendo). Finally an adventurous movie free of bad language and filth. The theatres showing this film have been packed, so I hope Hollywood gets it.
My Ratings: Excellent!/4
—Sarah Modisett Lee, age 39
Positive—This was a great way to spend the evening! It was fun, exciting, and humorous, all in one! This movie is a definate winner with me, and except for tons of violence, there was nothing else I noticed wrong with it. I think older children can see this; if they can watch Indiana Jones, they can see this movie.
My Ratings: Good/4½
—Dana, age 19
Positive—I take umbrage with the reviewer’s, Jonathan Rodriquez, comment that “I doubt many people will think twice about the scene when they see it, but for some reason it impacted me more than a scene like that normally would.”

I was extremely upset over that scene and I think many, if not most people will be. I know in a world that has always been filled with brutality (not just post 9/11) one might come to the conclusion that the viewing audience would not be bothered by that. But in a world that has also seen great selflessness, kindness and grace, I think one has to believe that the majority of us would be shaken by scenes like this.

Half way through the movie, I was ready to buy it when it came out on DVD. Then came the scene mentioned above, and I cried and decided it wasn’t a film I wanted to own. I would recommend this movie to adults but caution them that this scene is strong and disturbing.

I would like to commend the writers for adding a comment about the world view on Africa. All in all, it was a good film. It may seem to struggle with between trying to be fun and serious, but think of the fun as a spoonful of sugar to help the serious medicinal messages go down. Be prepared to laugh, cry, sit on the edge of your seat and cheer!
My Ratings: Good/5
—Lynda, age 43
Negative—I guess I may have been expecting too much from this movie, but overall, I thought it was pretty poorly made. The movie starts with what seems to be a good plot, but then it completely lost me as it changed from the ironclad search to the plague/poison problem… etc. Well, when I later looked back at the movie in retrospect, the idea seemed pretty plausible and actually exciting as the two dilemmas (the ironclad ship and the dying people) might weave together for a solution. But in reality, the editing for the film was pretty lousy and didn’t carry the viewer from one scene to the next.

On the other hand, I have nothing to complain about regarding the morality of the film. The sexuality and vulgarity that typically appears in these action films was limited if not completely nonexistent. In the end, I was just disappointed to be left unsatisfied and hanging. I was hoping that all loose ends would tie together and leave me with that “that was a wonderful movie” feeling in my gut. But it didn’t.
My Ratings: Better than Average/1½
—Stacey Baradit, age 18
Positive—My husband and I went to see this movie. Going in we were a little hesitant. We were pleasantly surprised! There were NO sex scenes and if there was bad language, we didn’t remember any! We have no problem taking our 13 year old to see it now. Great choice for our evening!
My Ratings: Good/5
—Samantha Wilcox, age 37
Positive—As most other viewers, I enjoyed this movie. The violent scene which bothered some was committed by a ruthless dictator, I felt it was in his character and very plausable. What I liked best was the fact that when it came to a choice between saving people or continuing the search for his dream, the heroes didn’t pause or debate. For them the choice was obvious, save the people. The boss also had this view. His workers/friends’ lives were far more important than his material wealth. Finally, a great action movie I don’t have to cringe through because of language and visuals.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—Lee Swetnika, age 42

Comments from young people
Positive—This action movie is great. Steve Zahn is so funny as Al. Matthew did a very good job of portraying Dirk. Clive Cussler is a fantastic writer according to my dad. When I saw this movie, I found it so good that I’m going to read the books and find out more about the main characters.
My Ratings: Good/4
—Jackie S., age 16
Positive—Man! This movie was Awesome! I loved it, I would go so far as to say it was better than national treasure. It had action, adventure, humor, excitment, suspense. and the best part (you ready for this?) Its was clean! I mean, its not very often you can view a good PG-13 film and say it was clean. sure there are a lot of “somewhat” clean movies, but this one was actually, honest to goodness clean. I would highly suggest seeing this movie to… oh just about anyone. bear in mind that it is PG-13 however so the choice is yours on who to take.
My Ratings: Good/4½
—Daniel Robison, age 16
Positive—This movie is not the greatest movie ever made, but besides some violence and swearing, it’s very clean. It might be a bit intense for young kids. But it makes a nice night out at the movies. An enjoyable movie. Go see it.
My Ratings: Good/4
—Adam, age 14
Positive—My dad took my brother and I to see this film. It was pretty good, except I’m somewhat of a nitpicky person so the improbable stuff didn’t really appeal to me, but this movie was very funny thanks to the talents of Steve Zahn and a few choice lines by William H. Macy. “Sahara” has some good stunts and the acting was pretty good. Morally, the only thing that bothered me was the language. It was all pretty mild stuff, but one of the funniest scenes in the movie had to come with a couple of, ahem, colorful words. Quote: “Remember that time in Morocco” There is also some violence, but it isn’t graphic at all. The only thing to worry about is a man is shot a point blank range on his knees (nothing is seen except for the gun firing). All in all, pretty clean for an action flick. Hope there’s a sequel!
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—Benjamin Layman, age 12
Movie Critics
…passably entertaining… The story line is ridiculous… The body count is way too high, especially given the tenor of the film…
—Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic
…may not be brilliant, but it’s an entertaining film that will appeal to a wide audience…
—Annabelle Robertson, Crosswalk
…raucously nimble and cheerfully silly action adventure that finally gives Matthew McConaughey a role that fits his carefree, sexy, Southern-boy-scoundrel insouciance…
—Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
…big summer action movie that would have been hot stuff about 30 years ago…
—Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
…a big, dumb action film just like National Treasure but with less of that durned thinkin’…
—E! Online
…stunningly inept, stunningly incoherent, stunningly awful in every single way imaginable…
—Robert Wilonsky, Dallas Observer