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Sanctum: Not much here

Director: Alister Grierson
Screenplay: John Garson, patient Andrew Wight
Release Date: February 4, epilepsy 2011
Actors: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the movie going in, except that a) the movie was produced by James Cameron (king of the box office via Avatar and Titanic) and b) it was inspired by the true experience by the writer. I was hoping it would pleasantly surprise me, but unfortunately it fell apart on so many levels.

It’s never a good sign when one cringes at how awful the script and the acting is in the first five minutes of a film. The lines given to the actors were all pretty bad, unbelievable, and most importantly, unlikeable. The only natural actors it seemed were Alice Parkinson, who played Victoria and Dan Wyllie who played Crazy George. I was disappointed to see that Ioan Gruffudd who I recognized from Fantastic Four, was the worst of the bunch. I never remembered him being awful, but the lines being delivered just seemed to fall flat and never got off the ground.

So, what’s the movie about? It’s about a team of divers, headed by Frank (Richard Roxburgh) who have been leading an expedition under the caves of Papua New Guinea, trying to see if the caves lead to the ocean. Frank’s expedition is sponsored by Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), who has flown from American with his girlfriend to check out in person how it is going. Frank is a pompous, egotistical human being who often gets into fights with his teenage son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) and he often refuses to give Josh a break. The only really likeable character is George, who puts up with Frank’s nonsense, and is friendly to the rest of the crew. While they are down in the cave, a huge rainstorm-turned cyclone arrives, threatening to flood the entire cave and drown everyone inside. With their exit blocked, their only way out is through the cave, forcing them to find where the cave might spit out to the ocean.

I’m all for movies about man vs. earth, but I often feel that a simple movie really has to have its ducks in a row in order to be successful. When, off the bat, the acting fails to grab you and the line delivery is unbelievable, there is a problem. The characters are fairly one dimensional, despite efforts to flesh them out a bit. Most importantly, most of them are not likeable, and being forced to spend time two hours with them is downright painful. Friends I went to see Sanctum with, at points, were about ready to walk out. I don’t think I thought it was quite walk-out worthy, but it was pretty darn close. The entire time as I watched the film, I kept on feeling as though I was watching some sort of B-movie on the SyFy channel, except with good effects. Even the score I felt was uneven, with a lack of highs and lows, and when there were highs, where they were placed did not always match the intensity of the scene. Combine all those failures together, and the beautiful cave effects and cinematography cannot save a poorly constructed film. Sanctum definitely succeeds on making you feel as though you were confined to a very small space, and if you have any claustrophobia tendencies, you are sure to feel it here. (This in turn will increase one’s distaste for the characters as they become even more irritating when stuck with them.) What goes on in the caves is terrifying, and sometimes disturbing, leading to many deaths throughout the film, but that alone could not keep the film interesting when the other elements failed miserably.

As the movie reaches the end, it becomes from horrible to unbearable. It quickly drops from a B-list movie to a C-list movie with the ridiculous nature how a few of the characters meet their demise. It would work if the entire focus had been based on how people may turn against each other in dire circumstances and when pushed to survival, but here in Sanctum, it’s just thrown in and really makes no cinematic sense. It simply did not match the tone of the rest of the film.

It’s no surprise that I do not recommend Sanctum at all. The film was simply too long, the characters uninteresting, and the script incredibly flat. 1 Caves / 5 Caves. Skip this one.

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