Film Review – Sanctum 3D

Sanctum poster

Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) is a successful and respected cave diver, exploring one of the last unexplored cave systems in the world, Esa-Ala. Accompanied by his billionaire sponsor Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd) and his son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) amongst others, his expedition takes a terrifying turn when a cyclone traps the explorers in the cave. With colleagues topside already assuming the party is dead, the only way they can escape is to explore the caves further and hope to find a route to the sea.

Sanctum is based on screenwriter Andrew Wright’s real life experiences and while this is marketed as a James Cameron produced picture (Cameron has worked on documentaries previously with both John Garvin and Andrew Wright), the only obvious Cameron trademark on this is the 3D.

The story is pretty much as you’d expect, man against nature, in this case, water, sometimes raging, sometimes just deep and treacherous. In between the action sequences are plenty of broad brush strokes for the characters, Frank is driven but has a dysfunctional relationship with his son, Carl is a control freak who always has to win, Josh is the epitome of petulant 17 year old. The action sequences are superb and directed by Grierson with a steady hand, but how you react to the film may have a lot to do with how you respond to the characters themselves. While you can’t fault the action, a lot of the interactions are pretty much “by the numbers” and deaths occur either through noble behaviour or predictable errors of judgement.

But lazy plotting aside the film has strong action elements and is well paced. The 3D is the same process as pioneered for Avatar and it gives an excellent sense of claustrophobia in the underwater scenes as well as an incredible sense of scale in some of the cave reveals. The action is well shot, with some exceptional “squick” moments. Those of you grossed out by scenes in Frozen will have a similarly painful time watching this.

The cast does well too. I’m not a Richard Roxburgh fan at all, but his performance as Frank is gritty and well-placed. Ioan Gruffudd plays against type as the loathsome Carl, although his US accent is distracting. Dan Wylie (soon to be seen in Animal Kingdom) also deserves a mention as George. It’s a performance with no tricks or showiness, but excellent all the same. The women are less well-served by the script, particularly Alice Parkinson as Carl’s girlfriend Victoria, in a role that is so cheesecake, she makes a stunningly unlikely decision that ends up with her hyperthermic and in her underwear.

At 1 hour 49, the movie manages to hold the audience’s attention pretty succinctly, although some plot telegraphing early on does manage to take some of the surprise out of the final reel.

Despite some early déjà vu if you’ve seen The Cave, Sanctum is well-worked and workmanlike. Nothing earth-shattering but a good action flick with some strong performances.


~ by moviegrrlreviews on February 4, 2011.

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