Time Out saysNovelist Clive Cussler’s series of Dirk Pitt adventures is the latest port of call for movie producers seeking a viable action-hero franchise. Part of a privately funded ocean-going operation salvaging valuable artefacts, Pitt is scientist, historian and fearless rabble-rouser rolled into one. Think two parts Indiana Jones to one part James Bond – the filmmakers evidently did. Unfortunately, it took them to the vapid presence of Matthew McConaughey, who plays it so unbearably superciliously cool throughout that you could quite happily throttle him.
That handicap aside, it’s not unintriguing fare, up to a point. We start at the close of the American Civil War, when a Confederate iron-clad battleship is crawling out of port under heavy fire, never to be seen again until the discovery of a rare gold coin in present-day sub-Saharan Africa prompts McConaughey to conclude that the vessel is now languishing somewhere in the desert. The four credited screenwriters take some care to set up vaguely recognisable geographical and political realities, as the search intersects with Penélope Cruz’s World Health Organisation doctor racing to prevent the spread of a deadly virus, and suave Gallic magnate Lambert Wilson helping the local tinpot dictator with his chemical waste processing. With striking landscape photography by Seamus McGarvey and Steve Zahn’s goofball sidekick turn amiable as ever, it tootles along merrily enough until we hit a 007-retread final reel, the CGI kicks in and rigid tedium takes over. Standard-issue family action-adventure fare then, with only the odd dash of early ’70s rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd et al) hinting at any distinctive flavour, and the vacuous leading man clearly a liability.
Fri Apr 8, 2005