Directed by Breck Eisner. USA. 2005.

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The first Clive Cussler film based on his Dirk Pitt series is about Pitt’s search for a Civil War ship that has drifted to Africa against the backdrop of a water poisoning plot in rebel run Mali.

A vehicle more for Matthew McConnaughy (who also executive produces) to show off his six pack and winning smile while on location in Africa, it does work as a piece of Hollywood action entertainment.  The check list is fully catered for: funny sidekick; vulnerable but capable girl; British villain and exotic locations.  

A lot of action-adventure novels you cannot imagine appearing on the screen - novels by Cussler, Matthew Reilly, Tom Clancy - because of their sheer size in terms of shift in location especially the geography.  So credit must be given to the screenwriters for being so economical with the script, setting up a lot of character development while also showing us how extravagant Pitt and his sidekick are in their intiative, a great sight is Pitt and sidekick surfboarding across the desert.  It is helpful to know that these heroes are not muscle bound like Stallone or Schwarzenegger, but instead are trained in the US Navy it is this mix of strength and intelligence that shows off their strong suits.

It says nothing about the political ideology of Africa, it does sympathise with the rebels who are in a struggle against a leading dictator, treating Africans more as sideshows, but the photography does cast the nature as a more than worthy character.

The ending is typical of most action films, the heroes get what they want and the villains all meet a nasty end.  McConnaughy and Penelope Cruz have a certain chemistry and Cruz does well in a role more like Karen Black in Raiders of the Lost Ark, than Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough.  But the star again is Steve Zahn who excels in a supporting sidekick as he has done since he first appeared in That Thing You Do! he has been playing the same role for nearly ten years and his ability to not age physically and still remain both funny and refreshing in his roles.

It has been likened to a Bond film, and you do see the film makers attempting to make a new franchise, however, too often the film gets caught up in a far-fetched plot that attempts to have a conscience in regard to America’s awful foreign policy by having an American who is not an agent, politician or hero but a treasure hunter who has as much access to everywhere as anyone else he could be.  An everyman in a not so every day situation in unfortunately a run of the mill action picture which is nevertheless entertaining.

Jamie Garwood
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