Monday, July 30, 2012

Something I like: Sahara

Every so often, it probably makes sense to talk about something I like.  Actually, that's the entire point behind the .hack and Deus Ex posts, but this is something different.  For some reason something about Sahara popped into my head and I decided that I'd talk about what I like about the movie.


The movie is in no way perfect.  It might get a technical pass of the Bechdel test if you consider the opening dialogue with Eva to be about how the guy got the disease instead of being about the guy himself, but for the most part there's only one female character in the movie (Eva.)  Guess the race of the first protagonist to die.

Much could be written tearing it apart I'm sure, but there's nothing wrong with liking problematic art and this is going to be about what I like.

I like that it's not an origin story.  Dirk, Al, Sandecker and to a lesser extent Rudy have been around, they know each other, they function as a team.  They're not spending most of the movie testing each other out in order to find their place and then, when they finally learn to work together, winning so that the credits can roll.

I like the (second) opening shot that takes the place of an origin story, the camera going around the room looking at the newspaper clippings of their past exploits while some nice music plays.

I like that Eva and Frank's disagreement isn't idealism vs. cynicism but instead people with good points on both sides who both want to do the right thing but lack the resources and authority.

I like that Eva being rescued was a thing that emphasized numbers and surprise rather than woman=weak, man=strong.  Eva was outnumbered, her assailants were surprised.

And skipping ahead, I like that once she was part of the group and captured it was because they were all captured, not because the woman got captured.  I like that the reason she didn't escape right away when the others did wasn't a lacking on her part but just because she was watched more closely while those guarding the others were negligently inattentive.

I like that Sandecker, Dirk, Al, and Rudy all knew their stuff and that this knowledge didn't lead to, "Of course you know Bob," but instead, "Not this again."

I like that Frank was willing to take the opportunity to go outside proper channels even though his job is, basically, to make sure that Eva learns to do things the right way.

I like that the native overlord wasn't a mindless thug, but someone who knew what was being done to him, even identifying the metaphorical beads for the natives as beads for the natives.  I like that his response to the sole survivor crawling through the desert to bring him the news was not to shoot the messenger, but to praise him and implore him to rest.  This in addition to being evil.

I like the entire thing involving the Panama.  Sandecker's insistence it not be done, the sudden interest of everyone on the bridge crew, which would disappear whenever Sandecker turned around to look at them, Rudy's confusion, Dirk and Al's determination, "Everybody's ignoring me," (when everyone who can hear him is secretly paying attention), the defeated, "He pulled a Panama."  The response.  The, "Is that how it worked the first time?" summing up.  Even the reason for the name.

I liked that Al couldn't figure out a turban and that Rudy hid among the goats.

I liked how Rudy delivered the news about the boat, complete with sound effect.

I liked that when Sandecker said, "Not now Rudy, I don't have time," and Rudy replied, "Yes sir, you do," Sandecker had enough faith in his subordinate to stop, read the information he was given, and on realizing what it signified shift his entire paradigm rather than make it into some sort of, "You don't get to tell me what I have time for," macho fight.

I like that his first attempt is to deal with things through governmental channels.

I like horses.

I liked Al's description of their strategy: we're in the desert, looking for the source of a river pollutant, using as our map a cave drawing of a Civil War gunship, which is also in the desert.  His question: So I was just wondering when we're gonna have to sit down and re-evaluate our decision-making paradigm?  Dirk's reply: Don't know - workin' so far.  And the look on Eva's face.

I like that they never really have a decision-making paradigm but instead a constant push to keep moving forward and deal with whatever is in front of them in whatever way they have, perhaps best demonstrated with what they did with the broken plane, speeding across the flatlands in an unknown direction because they had to go somewhere.

I like the song magic carpet ride.

I liked that this focus on the moment drove them through the movie never looking two steps ahead because if they did they'd have no choice but to conclude they had no chance and instead kept running just as fast as they could, occasionally lying to themselves to keep going (cut the head off the snake) well aware that what they were doing shouldn't work but hoping all the while that if they kept on going somehow things would work.

I liked that the Dirk's big speech to the natives completely failed to sway them in the least and so the protagonists were forced the move to plan B.

I liked that when the natives saved the day in the end it wasn't because they had been wrong and Dirk had been right, but rather because the situation had changed.  (It was no longer small arms vs. concrete and heavy machine guns, it was small arms vs. for the most part, small arms, at which point numbers do make a big difference.)

I liked that Eva didn't just agree with Dirk's assessment that he was always saving her life.  (Though the fact she hit him in the face with a helicopter did lessen the strength of her argument, I think.)

I liked the pacing and the music.

I loved William H. Macy and Pen√©lope Cruz.  Actually, I was a fan of basically all of the characters and by extension the actors who played them.

I liked that when the armor piercing rounds blew a bunch of visible holes in their plan it was Al who asked if Eva was alright.  I'm not even sure why I liked that.  Maybe because it's less, "I have to check on my maybe-girlfriend," and more, "I want to check on my colleague."

I just liked the movie.

It probably goes without saying that if you want to buy the movie, you can click a link such as this and be taken to Amazon. [Added:] They dumped me. Buy from someone else.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah. It's loud and stupid, but kinda fun. The few Dirk Pitt novels I tried reading were horribly sexist even by the standards of their time, to the point that even I wasn't able to enjoy them, but the film worked out really pretty well.

    Even with McConaughey, who usually comes off to me as a thoroughgoing sleazeball.