Film Review – Sanctum

Sanctum (M)

Directed by: Alister Grierson

Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson

Two stars

Review by: Julian Wright

After two dreadfully scripted and acted hours of Sanctum it is apparent that executive producer James Cameron’s involvement was limited to the technology used to film this survivalist thriller. Much has been made about the 3D technology he pioneered for Avatar which was then used here. With all the hype about his credit in an Australian film, no one seemed to worry whether or not it would be good.

The high profile Hollywood heavyweight that brought us no nonsense action thrillers like Terminator and Aliens could have offered his golden touch to this flimsy script. While it is a competently filmed thriller, the characters and dialogue are so banal that you wish they never get out of their underground tomb.

Sanctum is the kind of film where characters are annoying, jokey, stubborn, don’t listen and ultimately, end up dead because of it. Perhaps Cameron should have spent time helping to develop the script as well as lending his state of the art 3D technology. I am sure it would have resulted in a punchier adventure.

Experienced diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) and his team have been kilometres down in the South Pacific’s Esa Ala cave systems for months exploring where few people have been. When his financier Carl Hurley (Ioan Guffadd) goes down to pay a visit with his girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson) in tow, they run into some trouble when a cyclone hits and a flash flood causes their exit to be sealed.

Frank doesn’t really know how to be a father to his son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) who is also trapped down there with them, but this is where his skills come in handy. He gets straight into survival mode and makes no bones about their chances. He tells them not to bother waiting around for a rescue team because it is not coming. Their only chance is to look for another way out.

Now burdened with a whiny and defiant kid, limited air and a couple of inexperienced divers, he must take his group through water filled caves and tight tunnels to try and find an exit that may not exist. But the one dimensional members of the crew meet their demise one by one in such routine fashion that you can pick the order in which they die like a Friday the 13th movie.

As you could imagine, the set up does not lend itself to complicated plotting or even much below the surface character development. This is all about putting the audience on the edge of its seat and threatening to push it off. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give us any appealing characters to root for. There are some sensationally tense sequences that, when they are over, you realise you have been holding your breath. It is a testament to director Griersson’s directorial skills to put us into this state of catatonia.

Possibly best viewed with the volume down (or off), Sanctum offers spine tingling underwater sequences, only some of which are enhanced by 3D technology, but also dialogue and accents that threaten to ruin your ear drums. One thing is for sure, you wont want to climb into caves any time soon. Or trust that a film executive produced by James Cameron will be any good.

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