Movie Review: Sanctum


After a day of raking leaves, mowing the lawns and trimming in the hedges in extremely unseasonal shorts wearing Bay Area weather today I had decided to treat myself to a couple hours of blissful celluloid escapism. But what should I see? The much ballyhooed Oscar favorite The King’s Speech? Or the rather maligned standard B-movie offering Sanctum? After careful consideration… 3D won the day and Sanctum it was!

I was sold on this movie regardless of reviews when I had first seen the trailer preceding The Green Hornet… the 3D trailer for this film was fantastic. Rappelling into a great cave mouth… climbing… disaster!… claustrophobic scenes underwater… and base jumping!! What was not to love? If you were concerned about things like good performances, clever dialogue and depth of plot… you would not love much about this movie. If you are interested in arresting visuals, gripping tension, the occasion squirm inducing moment and pure escapism… then you may find yourself enjoying this slice of movie cheese.

The story revolves around the crusty and calloused, yet genius, cave explorer Frank (Richard Roxburgh), his reluctant caving protege son Josh (Rhys Wakefield), Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), the wanker money man, and Victoria (Alice Parkinson), Carl’s woefully ill prepared girlfriend, as they descend into the world’s largest unexplored cave system in Papua New Guinea looking for the route to the sea. As Frank and Josh deal with the latter’s daddy issues and Carl and Victoria stake their claims as douchebags extraordinaire, a storm rages outside and communications are down between those deep in the earth and those up top. The cave system is flooding and the way out is blocked.

From this point on, there is a distinct pulse to the action bits. It’s like you could almost set your watch from one calamity to the next. Also, because of it’s R rating, every character gets at least a few chances to cuss and deliver their poorly written lines in as poorly delivered a fashion as possible. With the exception of Richard Roxburgh, most of the acting was done by the scenery.

Visually… whoa. From the opening helicopter ride to the vertical mouth of the cave to the interiors of vast chambers within the cave system. I must admit to being a bit geeky about caves and cave diving. I’ve never done it myself, but a couple of years ago I met up with some cave divers whilst on vacation in Mexico and was transfixed by their stories and pictures. I’m quite sure I don’t have the intestinal fortitude or the death wish enough to engage in cave diving… but seeing it in digital 3D on the big screen was quite a treat. Plus, I do enjoy climbing (although I haven’t done any climbing in a year and am developing the gut in spite of this love) and enjoy seeing any gear and scenes of climbing on film. It was beautiful… too bad those people got in the way.

In my opinion, it is perfect for what it is. A National Geographic/re-enactment/B-movie/disaster film with loads of unknown Australian actors and a good pulse driving pace. Although it is only getting a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, count me as one of the fresh picks. Chock full of flaws and horribly effective in conveying that claustrophobic feeling… I came out of the theater into a warm evening and considered myself lucky for not being in a cave.

Diving in…
Cornelius J. Blahg

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