Sahara Studio: Paramount Year: 2005 Rated: PG-13 Length: 123 minutes Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1, English, French 2.0 English Subtitles Closed Captioned Special Features: Two Commentaries, 3 Featurettes, Deleted Scenes Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 USD Release Date: August 30, 2005 Preposterous! Formulaic! Dirk Pitt is no Indiana Jones! But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I still enjoyed Sahara... quite a bit, in fact. And the funny part is, I put off reviewing this DVD because I wasn’t looking forward to the film, which is based on a novel by Clive Cussler, which I haven’t read. Underwater explorer and adventurer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) believes an Ironclad ship from the U.S. Civil War is buried beneath the desert sands of the Sahara. Of course, nobody really believes his crazy theory. Not his partner Al Giordino (Steve Zahn). Not the money man of Dirk’s exploratory operation, Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy, who is wasted in the role). Nobody. Sandecker gives Dirk and Al the use of his boat and three days to prove his theory. Along the way, the adventurers meet up with Dr. Eva Rojas, a worker with the Wold Health Organization, who is looking for the source of a strange and deadly disease. Suffice it to say that the goals of Dr. Rojas and Mr. Pitt become rather codependent. After all, you’ve got to find some way to keep the love interest around - even if the love isn’t very interesting. And, if it weren’t for Dr. Rojas, the evil warlord in Mali wouldn’t have any reason to chase the trio across the desert. Whether or not they find the ship, the source of the disease, or love, makes little difference in this film... and as a viewer, you really won’t care. It’s not about the resolution to the plot, because the plot is thin and disjointed - and really isn’t important to the film. How can a plot not be important? This film has a plot that serves only one function - filler between action sequences. There had to be a way to get the characters from point “A” to point “B” in order to take part in the next action sequence. Great sequences are had by land, sea and air. Highlights include a preposterous boat chase, and an equally preposterous “sail” across the desert on the wreckage of a long-ago crashed plane. There is a nod to the superior Indiana Jones films, in that Al keeps losing his hat. So hold on to your hat, and be prepared to lose a couple of I.Q. points. This is not a film to be analyzed. It is indeed preposterous and formulaic... but don’t let that stop you from having a fun ride. The picture is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1. It features a mostly sharp and detailed image (with just a hint of ringing). The print is very good. Contrast is excellent, with good black levels and shadow detail. Colors are beautiful, warm and nicely saturated. I could detect no banding in the fine gradients of the sky and desert sands, and no blocking or mosquito noise in areas of high frequency detail. Very nice. The audio is available in English 5.1, and in English and French 2.0. The 5.1 soundtrack has good frequency response and crystal clear dialog. I was hoping for a bit more defined directionality and a bit stronger, tighter response from the LFE channel. Music sounds nice... I just wanted more spaciousness, overall... I never really felt like I was in the middle of the action. This is good, but not excellent. Special Features Commentary by director Breck Eisner A terrific commentary! Eisner covers a lot of ground, and rarely stops speaking for more than a few seconds at a time. There’s good stuff on trivia, cinematography, music, stunts, effects, script, cast and more. Commentary by director Breck Eisner and producer / actor Matthew McConaughey This commentary is a bit less technical. There are more personal stories, and there’s more information on acting and characterizations - plus a fair bit of simple reminiscing. Featurette: Across the Sands of Sahara (15:01) A by-the-numbers “making of” featurette, with participation from all the principle actors, the director, and others. Kind of glossy... not too deep... but brief and to the point. Featurette: Visualizing Sahara (20:07) Broad and shallow, this featurette covers too much in too little time, not giving adequate coverage to anything. Blink, and you’ll miss nuggets about storyboarding, previsualizations, cinematography, costume design, set design (Ironclad, Solar Tower), the boat chase, practical effects, stunts, etc... This is an interesting piece, but it should have covered half as much, or been twice as long. Featurette: Cast and Crew Wrap Film (9:45) An interesting montage of the days shooting the film. Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary) There are four scenes. The commentary explains the reasons for the cuts. Some of them were cut for pacing, others were cut because the referred to another cut, etc... Final Thoughts This fun, brainless popcorn flick is an enjoyable ride. Excellent video, good audio and a smattering of extras add to the value. Recommended.