I've been reading the books since I was nine or ten years old, my first having been Atlantis Found and which still remains my favorite to this day, followed by the entire collection of Clive Cussler's amazing books. I've been saying for YEARS that this series needed to be made into a series of movies, one for nearly every book. When I finally heard that in fact a movie, based on the book Sahara, was finally in production, I nearly died and went to heaven. It had been a good six years since I had read the corresponding book, but I still remembered it somewhat.
Matthew McConaughey is one of my favorite actors, but honestly I had never thought he would work as the beloved Dirk Pitt. Yet, when I saw him with his hair dyed and the green contacts, I knew he was a near match physically. Seeing the movie would be the final test, and I was not disappointed. When I finally knew he was the one, the moment that sent shivers down my spine, was when he went barefoot into that temple looking for knowledge, standing in the shadow and light in his khaki colored outfit....that was when I knew he was Dirk Pitt. He gave a flawless performance that I hope nearly all fans of Dirk could be happy with, men and women alike.
Steve Zahn cast as the just as beloved Al Giordino was a complete joke to me from the start. I may be a purist when it comes to movies based on books, but I was sorely disappointed when he was cast instead of a short, barrel-chested Italian with a shock of curly black hair, and a finger missing on one hand. The man who could sleep anywhere anytime, the man who could communicate disturbingly well with Dirk without ever speaking a word, the man you knew you and Dirk could count on. I could have accepted a complete set of fingers, or even a guy who wasn't really Italian, or all that short as long as he was shorter than Dirk's actor, but instead they brought in a joker. Steve Zahn certainly has a kind of chemistry that worked well with Matthew McConaughey, and he certainly could steal the show for the right viewer, but I find his performance and his entire presence in the movie a distraction, and an insult to Al Giordino's true character.
Raine Wilson as Rudi Gunn was passable, but not really that much like Rudi. The character really is dweeb-like with glasses, but not nearly as helpless as Raine made him out to be. He could kick serious butt when the situation demanded it.
William H. Macy was a surprise to me as Admiral James Sandecker, and not quite what I physically pictured (i.e. he didn't have the pointed Vandyke goatee he was supposed to have, as well as his hair not quite as blazing red as it should've been), but he ended up being alright for the role. Appearances can be somewhat forgivable, more so than a complete personality change as in the case of Steve's performance as Al. I was disappointed at what little importance was placed on Sandecker's coveted, special order cigars, and Al's uncanny ability to unnerve Sandecker by having identical cigars, assumed to have been stolen from Sandecker's secret stash(es), but that kind of thing can be hard to portray without a narrator with complete insight, so I forgive them for that. I also hope if the movies continue, they will show the N.U.M.A. headquarters, and Sandecker's commanding role at the facility.
Since Penelope Cruz is not one of my personal favorite actresses, I was not excited at her being cast opposite Matthew McConaughey as Eva Rohas. But upon watching it, I found that she was perfect for the role, held her own, and offered a certain flare to the movie, so much so that I found the movie would not have been complete had she not been cast for the role.
Much of the movie, and the books really, is full of coincidences that seem unreal, nearly impossible stunts and impromptu solutions to problems that miraculously work and save the day, but to me they add something to the legend that is Dirk Pitt, and also to Al Giordino. The reality is both Dirk and Al are intelligent men with more ingenuity that more than twice as many normal men could ever hope to possess, who are incredibly close and work flawlessly together as a team with a slew of support people and resources in the N.U.M.A. organization (shown more in the books than in the movie, which I hope will change). They are two men with an unwavering sense of justice, a strong determination to do what is right, and the ability and knowhow to do so. What more could anyone ask for of any hero, super or not, and his near equal sidekick? I gave a rating a little less than perfect because of the presence of Steve Zahn, Raine Wilson not quite up to par, and the fact that much of the story was changed from the book...too much, in my opinion.
All in all a very enjoyable film, and I do look forward to the next installments of the series, if they ever manage to make it to production.