Sunday, April 10, 2011

#99: Sahara

After the Maltese Falcon in 1941 and Casablanca in 1942, one can only imagine the heights of stardom that Bogey must've achieved in the early 1940s. I find it thus surprising that he did Sahara in 1943 - a movie with no leading lady, no other big names and directed by someone who was yet to set Hollywood on fire, in a manner of speaking. But if you want an idea of what Bogey had become by then, just glance once at the poster, where if you're not into Hollywood, you might end up thinking that this is a movie called Bogart starring someone by the name of Sahara.

The movie is set against the backdrop of WW II where the battle is at it's peak. The Nazis are advancing in north Africa and US and British forces are doing their best to thwart them. One such fight for post is being played out in a portion of the Sahara desert. The man in focus is Commander Joe ( Bogart) who is only left with his battle tank Lulubelle and a trusted aide. He's seperated from the rest of his team and is scrapping his way across the desert. The bad news is that he's been surrounded on three sides by the enemy. Devoid of food and water, he meets some more Allied soldiers and takes them with him hoping to find a way out of this gruelling terrain.

Bogart leads this all-male cast and turns in a gritty performance as Commander Joe. In unexceptionally difficult circumstances his character takes the leader's mantle and with the guile of a chess player and the instinct of a gambler takes a few crucial calls on how to handle the enemy. The story sits easily on Bogey's shoulders and just when you thought this was going to an average WWII movie, the writers spring an unexpected twist that gives the movie the much required impetus towards the end. Some of the dialogues are quite memorable too as a bunch of no more than ten soldiers stay together for most part of the movie. Between a Sudanese, an Irish, a Londoner, a Parisian, a German and a few Americans, the movie serves a platter of emotions from these people who have been forced into conflict- of their fears, hopes and dreams. Their conversations and resultant camaraderie not only keeps the story alive and kicking but these characters also end up opening themselves to you in a manner that makes you feel for them.

Sahara is a movie that begins slowly and escalates it's pace and tension by the second half like a meandering journey acquiring momentum, purpose and intent. It's raw form allows for immense intensity from Bogart and that keeps the movie in extremely good stead. As far as war movies go, Sahara might not be your first pick while you're building your DVD collection, but it surely is one that you mustn't miss out on.

Rating: 7.1/10


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