Clive Cussler’s novels are pure escapism – the hero is dashing, brave and resourceful, the women are always beautiful, and the world is always in danger from some madman. I’ve always thought they would make great movies, but it’s my understanding that Cussler has refused since Hollywood botched his “Raise the Titanic” back in the 1980’s. Sahara, in particular, has been one of our favorites, as we listen to the audio version on many occasions on long driving trips.
While I figured Matthew McConaughey could pull off the Dirk Pitt role, I wasn’t so sure about Steve Zahn as Al Giordino. However, the two of them worked quite well together on screen. Penelope Cruz was excellent as Dr. Eva Rojas, and William H. Macy did a great job as Admiral Sandecker. None of these (with the exception of Cruz) matched my mental image of the Cussler characters, but they made the parts work on screen in such a way that I was able to dismiss the discrepancies. The only one I couldn’t dismiss was Rainn Wilson as Rudi Gunn. In the novels, Gunn is another rough-n-tumble type, but Rainn plays him as a geek. I guess they figured the characters needed more variety.
The action is non-stop, and the plot is a bit more plausible than the original novel. The Civil War ploy about kidnapping Lincoln is dropped in favor of stealing Confederate gold. and the subplot of a disease that causes canniblism is replaced by an environmental contaminate. This is one of the rare cases where I enjoyed the movie more than the novel, and I think this will definitely be one we add to our collection when it comes out on DVD.