ⓘ Sahara (2005 film)
Sahara is a 2005 action-adventure comedy film directed by Breck Eisner that is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Clive Cussler. It stars Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn and Penelope Cruz and is an international co-production between the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany and the United States.
Sahara grossed $119 million worldwide at the box-office, against a budget of $160 million. It ultimately failed to recoup all of its costs and is among the biggest box-office failures of all-time.
The story begins in 1865, at the end of the American Civil War. With the city of Richmond, Virginia in ruins after being bombarded by Union artillery. The ironclad CSS Texas, captained by Mason Tombs, is loaded with the last of the Confederacys treasury gold in a final effort to prevent it from being captured by Union forces. The CSS Texas then makes a desperate attempt to run the Union naval blockade under heavy attack and disappears into the darkness.leaving its fate unknown.
In present day Mali, a civil war is being fought between dictator General Kazim and Tuareg people. World Health Organization doctors Eva Rojas and Frank Hopper investigate a disease spreading across Mali. Assassins accompanied by a corrupt Tuareg named Zakara attempt to murder Eva, but she is rescued by Dirk Pitt, who is from the National Underwater and Marine Agency and was diving nearby.
Dirks contact in Nigeria sells him a gold Confederate coin found in the Niger River. Believing this to be a clue to the long-lost Texas, Dirk borrows his boss Sandeckers yacht to search for the Texas. Accompanying Dirk are his partner Al Giordino and Rudi Gunn from NUMA. They give Eva and Hopper a ride so that they can continue their investigation of the disease before dropping them off as they continue up the Niger River.
Businessman Yves Massarde and dictator General Kazim try to stop the doctors from discovering the source of the disease. Kazim sends men to attack the yacht. Dirk, Al, and Rudi survive the attack, but the yacht is destroyed. Rudi tries to leave the country to get help while Dirk and Al go to rescue the doctors whom General Kazim was originally looking for.
After rescuing Eva, they try to leave Mali but are captured by the Tuareg. The Tuareg leader, Modibo, shows Eva his people dying from the same disease she was investigating. After analyzing the water sample, Eva finds out that the water is contaminated with toxins, and there is no treatment available for the sick people. Al stumbles into a cave with a painting showing the ironclad Texas. Dirk believes that the Texas became stranded when the river dried up after a storm and that the same river that carried the ship now runs underground.
They follow the dry river bed and work their way to the border. On the way, they stumble upon a solar detoxification plant owned by Massarde, which is the source of the contamination. They discover that the contamination is being carried to the ocean and, if not stopped in time, will kill everything in it. In addition, they cannot get their government to intervene during a civil war in a sovereign country. Massarde captures the group, keeps Eva and sends Dirk and Al to Kazim. The duo escapes but gets stranded in the middle of the desert. They find the wreck of a plane and rebuild it into a land yacht, which they use to reach civilization.
Dirk and Al enlist Modibos aid to return to the plant. To cover up the existence of the plant, Massarde decides to destroy it with explosives. Fearing the plants destruction would make it impossible to stop the contamination, Al goes to remove the explosives while Dirk tries to stop Massarde. Dirk fights and kills Zakara after a fierce battle. He rescues Eva, but Massarde escapes to his helicopter. Al successfully neutralizes the explosive, much to Massardes anger.
The three leave the plant on an Avions Voisin C-28, but Kazim pursues them in a helicopter gunship. A series of explosions along the dry river bed reveals the wreckage of the Texas. The trio board the ship, and use its cannons to destroy Kazims helicopter. Modibo arrives with Tuareg reinforcements and forces Kazims army to surrender, ending the civil war.
The plant is shut down, stopping the source of toxic waste, while the rest is dealt with. Sandecker agrees to do covert work for the government, who in exchange would fund NUMA. The Texas gold, which technically belongs to the Confederate States of America, is left with Modibos people. It is heavily implied that Massarde is poisoned by an undercover US agent. Dirk and Eva start a relationship.
- Lennie James as Brigadier General Zateb Kazim
- Matthew McConaughey as Dirk Pitt
- Delroy Lindo as Carl
- Nicholas Beveney as Gunboat 1 Officer
- Dayna Cussler as Kitty Mannock Deleted scenes
- Glynn Turman as Frank Hopper
- Steve Zahn as Al Giordino
- Rainn Wilson as Commander Rudi Gunn
- Robert Cavanah as Captain Tombs
- Paulin Fudouop as Modibo
- Patrick Malahide as Ambassador Polidori
- Rakie Ayola as Mrs. Nwokolo
- Maurice Lee as Zakara
- Penelope Cruz as Eva Rojas
- Mark Aspinall as Lawyer
- Christopher Bello as Train Driver
- Jude Akuwudike as Imam
- William H. Macy as Admiral James Sandecker
- Lambert Wilson as Yves Massarde
To promote the film, actor Matthew McConaughey drove his own Airstream trailer painted with a large Sahara movie poster on each side across America, stopping at military bases and many events such as the Daytona 500 to Grand Marshal the race, premiering the movie to fans, signing autographs, and doing interviews at each stop. The trips highlights were shown on an E! channel special to coincide with the films release. McConaughey also kept a running blog of his trip on MTVs entertainment website.
According to McConaughey, this film was intended to be the first in a franchise based on Clive Cusslers Dirk Pitt novels much like the James Bond one, but the poor box-office performance has stalled plans for a sequel.
4.1. Reception Critical response
Sahara received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 38% based on reviews from 175 critics, with the consensus: "A mindless adventure flick with a preposterous plot." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 41 based on 33 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
4.2. Reception Box office
The film opened at number one in the US box office, taking $18 million on its first weekend and ultimately grossed $69 million. It earned a further $50 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $119 million.
Produced on a $160 million budget with a further $61 million in distribution expenses, its box-office take amounted to barely half of its overall expenses. The film lost approximately $105 million according to a financial executive assigned to the movie; however, Hollywood accounting methods assign losses at $78.3 million, taking into account projected revenue. According to Hollywood accounting, the film has a projected revenue of $202.9 million against expenses of $281.2 million.
The Los Angeles Times presented an extensive special report on April 15, 2007, dissecting the budget of Sahara as an example of how Hollywood movies can cost so much to produce and fail. Many of the often closely held documents had been leaked after a lawsuit involving the film. Among some of the items in the budget were bribes to the Moroccan government, some of which may have been legally questionable under American law.
In 2014, the Los Angeles Times listed the film as one of the most expensive flops of all time.
5. Legal action
For almost a decade Cussler was involved in a lengthy legal action suit against the films producer, Philip Anschutz, and his film entertainment company, Crusader Entertainment LLC now part of the Anschutz Entertainment Group. It began in February 2005 when Cussler sued Anschutz and Crusader for $100 million for failing to consult him on the script. The writer also claimed breach of contract because Crusader had failed to take up the option of a second book, Anschutz counter-sued for "alleged blackmail and sabotage attempts against the film prior to its 2005 release." Cussler claimed he had been assured "absolute control" over the books film adaptation but when this didnt happen, he believed this contributed to its failure at the box office. He said in statement, "They deceived me right from the beginning. They kept lying to me. and I just got fed up with it." But Anschutzs company counter sued claiming it had been the behavior of Cussler that contributed to the films problems. They claimed Cussler did have certain approval rights regarding the script and selection of actors and directors, but he had been an obstructive presence, rejecting lots of screenplay revisions and attacking the film in the media before it was even released. On May 15, 2007, a jury found in Anschutzs favor and awarded him $5 million in damages. On January 8, 2008, Judge John Shook decided that Crusader Entertainment was not required to pay Cussler $8.5 million for rights to the second book. On March 10, 2009, the same judge ordered Clive Cussler to pay $13.9 million in legal fees to the production company.
A year later, in March 2010, the California Court of Appeals overturned Judge Shooks decision to award Anschutz and Crusader $5 million in damages and nearly $14 million in legal fees. Cussler then attempted to restart legal proceedings in July 2010 by filing a new lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court claiming the appeals court gave him back the right to recover the $8.5 million he believed Crusader owed him on a second book. In response, the production companys lawyer said, "Theyre trying to pretend this wasnt already litigated. Cussler has never been able to accept the fact that he lost this case. He didnt accept the jury verdict, then for a year they tried to get the trial court judge to say the jury determined Cussler was entitled to $8.5 million and the court said absolutely not. They then sought an appeal and it didnt work. Then they appealed to the California Supreme Court and they didnt take the case. So, despite having had multiple courts say no, they are trying all over again."
There were no further developments in the case for almost three years until December 2012 when both parties were back in court to hear which side was responsible for paying the cases $20 million legal bill. However, the Second Appellate District for Californias Appeals Court declared that "there was no prevailing party for purposes of attorney fees." It concluded that "after years of litigation both sides recovered nothing -- not one dime of damages and no declaratory relief."