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Movie Review: Sanctum - Diving In Caves Is Dangerous


Movie: Sanctum
Starring: Richard Roxborough, Ioan Gruffud, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson
Director: Alister Grierson

The hype surrounding Sanctum keeps saying that this is a James Cameron film. They even filmed interviews with him talking about the film. The honest truth though is that this is a film neither directed by or written by James Cameron. The film probably did get made though because of Cameron's influence and love of all things nature. The movie is inspired by a true story and credits one of the actual survivors as a writer. Maybe this lends credibility but in reality the movie is more "inspired" than it is "true". An adventurous team is making their way through Esa-ala an unexplored cave in the South Pacific. The team consits of Carl (Ioan Gruffud), a thrill seeking millionaire who is financing the project. Frank (Richard Roxborough) an experienced diver with a do whatever it takes to survive attitude. Frank's estranged son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) is also along for the trip although reluctantly due issues with his father. Carl's girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson) an experienced climber but inexperienced diver is also on board for reasons unknown. After a storm hits the island unexpectedly,  the group is forced to exit the cave by diving deeper into the unknown.

This movie begins very clumsily with awkward  and silly dialogue substituting for real character development. It also fails to setup much of a motivation for the expedition. There is no scientific reason for it and no commercial gain to be had either. The only real motivation is the adventure itself. Once the movie gets going though it's easy to forgive these faults.
The director although no James Cameron does a good job of setting up the different action sequences that the crew must survive. Sanctum does well by slowly building tension and distrust among the different characters which adds to the suspense. Richard Roxborough does particularly well as Frank whose character is the center of much the tension. Tension with his son Josh who doesn't understand his father's obsession with diving but lack of interest in his own family. There is also tension with Carl who Frank doesn't believe has what it takes to make the tough decisions needed to survive. He takes a character that could be as one dimensional as all the others and manages to make him something more. He really carries the film because the other performances are nothing to write home about. They could be described as serviceable at best, in the case of Ioan Gruffud there are some very cringe worthy moments.

All that aside though the movie is suspenseful and does engage the audience. It doesn't engage the audience very deeply or emotionally but it does get your attention. Their are some good twists and turns especially near the end of the film. Part of the fun is trying to figure out who will survive and who will perish and the answers may surprise you. Sanctum is realistic in the way that the characters meet their end suddenly and without warning. It adds a certain jolt to the movie, although none of the deaths really hit home on an emotional level except perhaps one or two.

I didn't see this movie in 3-D which is how it was intended however I don't think it would really make much difference in my opinion of the film.  Maybe some of the scenes  would benefit as there are many scenes of large caverns and nice shots of the natural environment. However I can't comment on that but I would assume it could only add to the experience.

The bottom line is that Sanctum is not by any means a perfect film. It could have done much better with some better casting and a more developed screenplay. However it effectively does it's job as a survival story. It is not a deep or moving film but it does have some shallow thrills. You can buy Sanctum on DVD or Blu-ray at our online store.

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