Master explorer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) takes on the adventure of his life when he embarks on a treasure hunt through some of the most dangerous regions of North Africa. Searching for whal locals call "The Ship of Death", a long lost Civil War battleship filled with coins, Pitt and his wisecracking sidekick (Steve Zahn) use their wits and clever heroics to help Doctor Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) who believes the ship may be linked to mysterious deaths in the very same area.
For more about Sahara and the Sahara Blu-ray release, see Sahara Blu-ray Review published by Sir Terrence on March 6, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Sahara, based on famous author Clive Cussler series of novels of the adventures of Dirk Pitt, is one of those movies that should have made it, but didn't. Sahara ended up being one of the worst flops in Hollywood history (Waterworld would take the top spot).
Sahara started off very strong in the theater, grossing $18 million dollars its opening weekend. It went on to do $122 million at the box office, and could have made a profit if it were not for high production costs. It cost the studio $160 million for production costs, and $81 million in distribution and advertising. An accountant working on the production reported that Sahara lost $105 million dollars (closer to $78.5 million) effectively killing off any hopes of an ongoing series or franchise. Also dogging the success of this film was the behind the scenes squabbling of the author of the book Clive Cussler, and the movies producer Philip Anschutz. Apparently Cussler did not like the script changes being made without his permission. Cussler blamed these changes on basically torpedoing the movies success. The combined effect of all of the issues worked against the success of a movie that should by all measure have done well. I personally could not help thinking that the mis-matched and predictable cast was also a big contributing factor. The concept of the movie seemed workable, but the trusty side kick routine, and the total lack of chemistry between lead actor Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz-Sanchez (better known as Penelope Cruz) made this film predictable, and in the end, unconvincing.
Marine Engineer, explorer and former US Navy Seal Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) travels to Mali in search of clues to the where a bouts of the Iron Clad warship CSS Texas loaded with a mysterious cargo. During his search along with side kick Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), Dirk Pitt thwarts and attempt on the life of Dr. Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz), a Doctor working for the United Nations World Health Organization. She is investigating and searching for a source that is causing a mysterious disease that is spreading from village to village on the western African continent killing local villagers. As their paths cross, they are led on an adventure across Africa, battling evil warlord General Kazim (Lenny James), and crooked businessman Yves Massard (Lambard Wilson) who is the key to the mysterious source causing the deaths of the villagers.
The 2:35:1 MPEG encoded 1080p video looks pretty good most of the time, but suffers from a bit of inconsistency. The picture quality is bright, vibrant, and definitely gives the feel of being in the desert. The source appears pristine, clean of pops, scratches, and other print defects. It has a very smooth digital video look rather than a film look. Colors are very well rendered, bright, punchy, a lot of rich hues, and are completely void of chroma noise or bleeding. In spite of the fact that a majority of the action takes place in daylight, shadow detail in night scenes was quite good. Fine details are excellently rendered, often giving the picture a three dimensional look.
If I have any issues with the picture quality, it would be persistent softness. It looks as if a thin veil is covering the picture at times. Also grain occasionally shows up, but not enough to be a complete distraction. This is not the best high definition video I have seen, but it is far from the worst.
The audio comes in two flavors, Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps, and a Dts track at 754kbps. I found little difference between the two. The sound is generally very good, with excellent use of the split surrounds during action sequences. Imaging is somewhat diffused, the front soundstage rest between my front left/right speakers without any extension beyond. The depth of the sound staging is somewhat shallow and flat, rarely extending behind the front panel of my speakers. Dynamic range is wide and unrestrained; pans were seamless whether front to back or side to side. Sound effects are cleanly rendered and often very powerful and aggressive in all channels. The LFE carries the lion share of the bass information, and it is very tight, deep, and really gives some heft to the overall mix. The film score, written by Clint Mansell is well recorded, but lacks in soundstage depth, and imaging is somewhat diffused and flat. Instrument timbre is finely captured, and sounds very natural. Dialog is always clear and never buried, but not always well integrated within the scene. This is a nice mix, serves the story well, but not the best I have heard from the Bluray format
Paramount has loaded this Bluray disc with plenty of extra's, more so than I think the title deserves. To start things off there are two audio commentary tracks, a solo track with director Breck Eisner, and another commentary track where he is joined by McConaughey. I found the former much more enjoyable than the latter. Next are three featurettes totaling 45 minutes, "Sands of Sahara," "Visualizing Sahara" and the "Cast and Crew Wrap Film." These three part features are actually quite interesting, and I really enjoyed watching them. There are also four deleted scenes included, but they are complete waste of time. There is also exclusive extra not on the DVD but included here on Bluray. These exclusive behind the scenes features are centered on the movies effects. "Camel Chase" is centered on the movies camel chase scene. The story boards are thrown in as well, and it gives us an idea of how difficult it is to setup and shoot this kind of scene. Also included are two animatics (pre-visualizations) of the opening scene and train jump. Each presented in a montage along with dialog and music, and combined last about six minutes. Lastly, we have some Storyboard Comparisons for three scenes: "Gun Fight at the Wall," "Finding the Iron Clad" and "Dirk Rescues Eva on the Beach." These are side-by-side comparisons of the original storyboards with the finished film sequence, complete with sound. These three scenes run about six minutes long.
This movie is fun, if not predictable. I tried not to take it too seriously, but have fun with it. The cast seemed to enjoy doing what they do, and that made it easier for me to get into the film. It has all of the elements of a good action and adventure movie except a solid plot, and good chemistry between the love interests. However there is enough here that holds together well to make this an interesting, popcorn munching flick. For those really into action and adventure movies (I am), this movie is fairly decent fair you may enjoy.