Sunday, April 10, 2005

Movie: Sahara (2005)

For the second weekend in a row, I saw the number one movie in the country. Truly I have my finger on the pulse of the American people.

In high school, I was a voracious reader of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels, even though numerous classroom wags referred to the main character as “Arm Pitt.” 1981’s NIGHT PROBE was the first adult book I read more than once. I remember it being a great mix of history and high adventure, with a dollop of kinky sex thrown in. Ah, the formative years.

It’s been ages since I read one of the books, which Cussler is now co-writing with the son he named after his lead character. To make matters more odd, Cussler is now making cameo appearances in the novels, rescuing the son of the character he named his own son after who is now co-authoring the books his father turns up in. Let’s see Martin Amis top that.

Hollywood’s first attempt at bringing Dirk Pitt to the screen was the legendary bomb RAISE THE TITANIC!, which I’ve somehow managed to avoid. I went to SAHARA for old times’ sake and because it features not one but two actors who improve every film they appear in: William H. Macy and Steve Zahn. (And yet I’m not a fan of HAPPY, TEXAS, in which they also co-star. Go figure.)

SAHARA is a hoot, a movie in the old-fashioned adventure mode that resists the testosterone-fueled impulses of most current action movies. It serves up its derring-do with high spirits and a nice sense of its own silliness. I particularly enjoyed the score by Clint Mansell, which made frequent nods to the James Bond movies and other classic soundtracks of the past.

Even the title sequence is old school, with the camera efficiently laying out Pitt’s entire back story in a trip around the cabin of a ship. I’m a little concerned about the fact that the movie is billed in those titles as “A Clive Cussler Dirk Pitt Adventure.” Shades of REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS. And we all know how that turned out.