Sanctum Crams the Modestly Budgeted Survival Fiascos


Directed by Alister Grierson
Universal Pictures
Opens February 4

Executive producer James Cameron lends his marketable screen credit and the 3D cameras he developed for Avatar to director Alister Grierson's modestly budgeted Australian disaster thriller, about a spelunking expedition gone awry in the underwater bowels of Papua New Guinea. "Trust the cave; follow the river," warns grizzled diver extraordinaire Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) after a tropical cyclone collapses the joint, leaving him to baby-sit his Bieber-coifed teen son (Rhys Wakefield), a smug and reckless financier (Ioan Gruffudd), and other one-at-a-time expendables as they make their escape swim. Inspired by co-screenwriter and explorer Andrew Wight's actual cave- in trauma, Sanctum overeagerly crams in every possible survival fiasco—from blood- bubbling decompression sickness to "meat-grinder" whirlpools, equipment failures, and mercy drownings. Ultimately, the plot-point overload dilutes any palpable sense of dread, excitement, or empathy, and it doesn't help that all the dialogue acts in service to either patronizing exposition or turgid interpersonal drama (Frank's kid comes of age after learning his negligent daddy knows poetry, and gee, can that billionaire blowhard be trusted?). Even the added visual dimension, thankfully used more for spatial recognition than splashing at us, can't compensate for impersonalized characters stuck under rocks. 127 Hours this ain't.

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Whew… there are some big expectations with such a big name attached… Supposedly a catastrophic cascade of series of events and underwater crisis turns out to be relatively easy to envision – and moderately claustrophobic, dark (dark dark), rather suspenseful story; however, there are times that one can almost feel the intense panic creeping from within and crawling up, closing in, tightening, and throat–gripping, especially if one can relate –hmmm—more or less. To certain extend, of course. Nevertheless, can’t really say breathtakingly fascinating, but mesmerizing perhaps. Although mildly entertaining, and yes, at times captivating, however, it’s somewhat predictable. Outstanding cinematography though – ABSOLUTELY gotta see it in 3D. Don’t expect a top action speed thriller, but human drama and some terrifying adventure. At least there aren’t any underwater cave zombie-monsters engulfing our actors.


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