Film / Sahara

Al Giordino: Well, we're in the desert, looking for the source of a river pollutant, using as our map a cave drawing of a Civil War gunship, which is also in the desert. So I was just wondering when we're gonna have to sit down and re-evaluate our decision-making paradigm?
Dirk Pitt: I don't know - it seems to be working so far.

Sahara is a 2005 action-adventure film starring Matthew McConaughey as Adventure Archaeologist Dirk Pitt. While engaged in a deep-sea salvage off the coast of Nigeria with his partner Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), Dirk discovers evidence that a lost Civil War ironclad may have managed to cross the Atlantic and wind up in Western Africa. Simultaneously, he saves the life of a WHO doctor (Penélope Cruz), who is investigating the source of a strange disease. Together they travel up the Niger River, searching for the missing ship and the toxins causing the disease, while evading the forces of General Kazim, who rules over the region and may have something to do with the plague.

Though reasonably successful at the box office, this film was a notable financial disaster, costing the studio over $100 million in losses. The movie was also famous for prompting a multi-million dollar lawsuit by the writer of the original novel, Clive Cussler, against the producers of the film, a lawsuit that Cussler subsequently lost. (the lawsuit lead to all the movie's expenses to be revealed - it's a nice read if you want to discover how can Hollywood spend so much)

Not to be confused with the the 1943 Humphrey Bogart film, the 1985 Brooke Shields film, or the 1995 James Belushi remake of the Bogart film.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Dirk Pitt
  • Agency of Fiction: NUMA is specifically noted as being a private organization in the movie, despite being a government one in the books. However, the ending implies that the government wants to buy their services and make them official, so its likely this movie was intended to be an origin story.
    • Interestingly, Clive Cussler, the man who created the fictional agency, also made NUMA non-fictional. He now has over sixty shipwreck recoveries under his belt.
  • Artistic License – Law: Sandecker uses Exact Words to avoid giving the Confederate gold to the US, as it is Confederate gold, not US gold. But legally, the CSA is considered a part of the US, not a separate country, and anything the CSA owned would automatically become the property of the US after being readmitted to the Union - it is now gold that belongs to the US.
  • Badass: Dirk, again. Former Navy SEAL after all.
  • Bait and Switch: In the final scene Dirk tells Eva that he has somthing to say that he meant to tell her after the movie's climax. Naturally the audience (and Eva) think he's leading up to something romantic, but Dirk merely says that, yes, Eva does throw like a girl. (This refers to some Casual Danger Dialogue from earlier in the film when Dirk needed Eva to throw some explosives.)
    • Also when the cannonball hits the chopper and it seems the fuse has failed. Then Kazim turns around again....
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Not only is Penelope Cruz's character thrown around and beaten up multiple times, but she also falls through the floor of the Saharan Shipwreck and is buried under a huge pile of sand. Her face gets a little dusty. Other than that, her hair is perfectly styled and she still looks like straight out of her L'Oreal commercials.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: A chopper gets taken out by a Civil War-era ship’s cannon.
  • Bring News Back: Rudi gets volunteered to take data on the toxins back to Sandecker.
  • The Brute: Zakara, a fierce Tuareg-turned-mercenary working for Massarde and Kazim.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Al and Dirk do this a few times, most humorously when Dirk berates Al for taking too long to get the Texas' gun port opened and Al exclaims that he stopped for coffee. All the while Eva is trying to alert them to Kazim's incoming tanks.
  • Catchphrase: Al seems to say "hi how are ya?" alot. Also doubles as a One-Hit Kill Pre-Asskicking One-Liner one time.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The gold coin, twice.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Do they honestly serve Massarde his own poisoned water in the end, without him noticing? Wow.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Yves Massarde, doing business with an African dictator. Although he doesn't seem to be aware of all the consequences of his actions.
  • Damsel in Distress: Eva clearly is a scientist, no Action Girl. Dirk likes that.
    Dirk: "We need to find that bomb."
    Al: "No. I'll find the bomb. You get the girl."
    Dirk: "... Deal!"
    • Eva is still gutsy enough to shoot the soldier with a gun on Dirk, and later leaps on Zakara, preventing him from killing Dirk.
  • Decapitated Army: Kazim's death seems like this at first. Lampshaded when the ones who did it (and indeed planned on it) immediately note that it shouldn't have worked. It didn't. In actuality, The Cavalry had arrived and surrounded the army offscreen.
  • Diegetic Switch: During the boat trip along the niger river the music goes from soundtrack, to the moored boat's radio. Later, after the heroes launch the boat again, the different tune on the radio shifts into soundtrack once more as the boat speeds away along the river.
  • Disney Villain Death: Zakara suffers one after a fight with Dirk.
  • The Dragon: Yves Massarde to Kazim.
    • Also Zakara.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Pitt and Co. infiltrate Massarde's plant by driving up in a car stolen from General Kazim, dressed as military personnel.
  • Exact Words: Sandecker gets out of giving the IRS some of the gold by saying "We didn't find any money belonging to the United States".note 
  • Extended Disarming: When captured by Tuareg freedom fighters, Al spends several seconds ridding himself of all of his guns, prompting looks from the other two.
  • Fanservice: Dirk's Walking Shirtless Scene.
  • Flare Gun: Rudi shoots a Technical with one.
  • Funny Background Event: During Dirk's payphone call to Sandecker after pulling off a truly magnificent Indy Ploy and feat of MacGyvering, an understandably irritated local resident shouts abuse at Al and gesticulates wildly at the improvised sandsailer built from the wreck of an aircraft, which is now sticking out of the side of his house.
    • While the team is preparing the boat for a 'Panama', Sandecker can be faintly heard yelling into the phone, "No Panama!" the whole time.
  • Green Aesop
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Dirk and Al.
  • Hot Scientist: Eva Rojas.
  • Kick the Dog: Kazim does this several times but his worst act is when he personally kills Frank.
  • Language Fluency Denial: Spoofed when Dirk and friends are waylaid by Malian troops. (Dirk's just buying time.)
    Dirk: I'm sorry, I don't speak English.
    Malian soldier: [laughs] You are speaking English now!
    Dirk: No, I only know how to say, "I don't speak English" in English.
  • MacGyvering: Using parts of a crashed plane for desert-surfing.
    Dirk: "I'll bet you a hundred there's a tool kit in there."
    Al: "I don't wanna rain on your crazy parade, buddy, but I don't think we can fix this thing."
  • Noodle Incident:
    • When the head of the organization wants a U.S. government operative to help find his two people, the guy won't do it. So he mentions a specific date, something like "October 27, 1982." The operative says, "I thought you'd bring that up. If I help you, we're even."
    • Panama is another incident we only have a little bit of information on... aside from the fact that they apparently blew up a boat, that they later found out that they weren't actually in Panama but actually in Nicaragua, and that it didn't actually work. The fact that Sandecker knew exactly what they were going to do when he overheard the word Panama suggests that they nevertheless do it quite often.
  • Outrun the Fireball
  • Plot Device: The old coin.
  • Product Placement: Quite a few, which was part of the reason for the film's Troubled Production: by contract, those scenes had to be in the theatrical release, regardless of their relevance to the plot, forcing scenes that were more relevant and more expensive to film in some cases to be cut.
  • Running Gag: Al losing his hat.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: A literal one is the object of Pitt’s search.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A newspaper clipping of NUMA raising the Titanic is showing during the opening track around Pitt's cabin (might be regarded as Tempting Fate given the lack of success of that particular film).
    • Several of the other clippings in Pitt's cabin also reference some of the more memorable adventures that he and Giordino had in the other books in the series.
  • Stealth Pun:
  • Tempting Fate: Pointing out that armour plate will protect you moments before being riddled by armor-piercing bullets.
    Dirk: "These walls are two feet thick with a double steel coating so there's no way those bullets can get to us. We sit tight and wait him out.
    cue hail of bullets
    Al: "Dirk. Ya' wanna talk me through that again?"
  • Trailers Always Lie: One trailer had this lovely exchange while Dirk and Al are sailing across the desert, which is sadly not in the actual film...
    Al: "Hey! Where're we going?"
    Dirk: "I dunno, but we're making great time!"
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Played straight with Kazim not killing Dirk and Al, averted with Frank.
  • Workaholic: The movie tries to establish Eva Rojas as such, although that might be an Informed Flaw.