Marine treasure hunter and all-round super hunk Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) braves the Sahara desert in search of a phantom battleship in this highly entertaining romp from the pen of airport pulp king Clive Cussler. Along the way he foils an environmental disaster and frolicks with Penèlope Cruz, hilariously miscast as a go-getting medic. A chunky story and spectacular setpieces distract attention from plot holes that could safely accommodate a nuclear submarine.
Let's face it: Dirk Pitt is a damn silly name, sounding more like a genital condition than an action hero. But then, Dirk Pitt is a silly character, a throwback from the days when men were men and women were chicks. Director Breck Eisner has toned down the jingoism of Cussler's books, but McConaughey's Pitt is still a deliciously insufferable hero: stolid, arrogant, macho, and relentlessly outdoorsy, his gleaming chest is outshone only by his 100 kilowatt smile. He'd make lousy company but for the fizzing buddy chemistry he shares with comedy sidekick Al Giordino (the ever-marvellous Steve Zahn).
"TWO EXCELLENT VILLAINS"
Lining up against Dirk the berk, we get two excellent villains: Lennie James as tinpot director Kazim ("the man who put the 'war' into warlord," the script breezily assures us) and Lambert Wilson as an evil industrialist, still sporting that absurd headwaiter sneer he wore in The Matrix Reloaded.
A rousing climax composed of absolutely traditional elements - ticking bomb, precipice punch-up and a car chase - puts a dollop of cream on this juicy wedge of apple pie.