Release Date: February 4, 2011
Director: Alister Grierson
Writers: John Garvin, Andrew Wight
Cast: Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker, Nicole Downs Allison Cratchley, Cramer Cain, Andrew Hansen, John Garvin Sean Dennehy, Nea Diap.
Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Wayfare Entertainment
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller
Country: USA, Australia
Budget: $30,000,000 (estimated)
With the grand master of 3D attached to a film, anyone would be confident to say it’s a masterpiece. Especially, when the 3D effects cater to a plot that promises to intensify your experience. The plot involves a team of cave divers, being trapped in the most dangerous cave system on the planet. The Esa-ala Caves of Papua, New Guinea. In the middle of the expedition, a tropical storm forces the explorer’s to dive deeper into the cave system, where no man has ever explored. With no time, minimal equipment, and raging rapids, it seems there’s no chance for survival. Unfortunately, there’s no chance for a quality film as well. Like Lemony Snickets, it is a series of unfortunate events that attempts to pull you in with suspense, and the will to live on. Instead, it pushes you away with, extremely unlikable characters, a script that tries too hard to push it’s rating, and an ending that doesn’t take itself seriously. Not even James Cameron’s 3D effects can save this film. In fact, it makes it even more daunting.
The leader or most experienced person for this sojourn is a little confused. Frank (Richard Roxburgh) is the hard body, who pushes everyone to the edge. He claims caves are the love of his life, and nothing else will make him happier. This is sad because Frank’s only son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) doesn’t appear too important to Frank, unless he is making a mistake. Josh on the other hand despises caves, saying that no one in the real world cares, and that it can do nothing to help humanity. Yet according to some he’s the most experience climber. Frank is so hard on Josh for something he cares nothing about, then wonders why they’re relationship is as dark as the caves. The millionaire Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), who finances this journey, has no real authority, and right off attempts to sound cool with profanity, which instead makes him, sound foolish. He also brings his ignorant girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson), who feels that since she’s climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, cave diving should be a walk in the park. She’s very annoying, and I wish she had died immediately. While having the least experience of cave diving than anyone else in the party, she doesn’t want to take advice when needed, and dishes out attitude if things don’t go her way. Finally, we are left with a quitter, whose name is not worth mentioning, and a native whose only purpose seems to increase the body count. Out of all the characters, the only one I cared about was Josh. He’s the only one who makes sense of anything. The acting is fair and I could say it is possible to relate to a scene or two regarding their performances.
Toward the beginning of the film we’re shown a thorough computer image of the entire cave system. It provides all corridors and tunnels of what humans have explored and what has yet to be discovered. It’s very detailed and gives you goose bumps anticipating what adventures may lay ahead. Right from the start, because of some miscommunication, disaster strikes lowering the spirit from everyone. Then a tropical storm that was supposed to make it’s mark three to four days later decides to hover over the land now, destroying everything that was planned. It’s now a guessing game, with who will survive, and I could hardly care. Some are left with the hard decision of leaving a friend to rot, or to put them out of their misery. Many of the fatalities could have been avoided if everyone worked as a team and put aside their egos. This is what makes the characters so unlikable. It’s a film about survival, doing what’s absolutely necessary to live through to the next day, but you come away not caring if they live or die. At times things became a bit challenging, with the water rising a few inches every minute, air tanks running out of oxygen, ropes being lost, and batteries running low. These factors made the cave system even more dark and gloomy. In the beginning, the script also provides you with some evidence that will clearly be brought up at the end to supposedly save the day. It’s very predictable. You’re actually anticipating when the credits will roll. It becomes even more frustrating when they’re so many twists and turns you don’t know what’s next. Yes, that may be the point of the film, but don’t tease me with computer imaging that’s never brought up again to help the team on their quest. I asked myself, “Don’t you remember the image from before? It would be a lot of help right about now!”
Even more daunting are the 3D effects. There are none, at least from my eyes, except in the first ten minutes when someone parachutes off a cliff into the cave system. The caves are dark enough on their own, and then I had to shell out more cash for my 3D glasses making it even darker without any effects. Yes, the cave is supposed to be dark and gloomy and it’s a tool that can be used to heighten the experience, but only if it’s used correctly. This film is a primary example on how not to do it.
“Sanctum” flashes an illusion of a dark and foreboding atmosphere, with bland special effects, and one of the world’s greatest filmmakers, namely James Cameron, is splashed all over the marketing. I can honestly say his involvement in the film consisted of no more than a phone call, with a few pointers that were clearly ignored. That’s what it seems like compared to other great films of this genre. Please don’t waste your time with the thought of witnessing something epic, because you won’t. With all the hype, there’s nothing special about it. With the slightest bit of curiosity about who might live or die, a bond between two of the explorers finally germinates, but it’s not worth the asking price. If James Cameron were the director of this film, I’m sure it would have been a treat to see. I can’t say that about director Alister Grierson. If you’re a diehard fan of a cast member or two you may find some modicum of enjoyment. Other than that, I say save your hard earned money until it’s released at your local video rental store. At least then your expectations will be in check. With all that being said it’s still, just my opinion. 5/10