James Cameron’s Sanctum piles on the water, the accents, the cliches, etc.

Sanctum – 2011

Directed by Alister Grierson

Starring  Rhys Wakefield, Richard Roxburgh, Ian Gruffud, Alice Parkinson, Daniel Wyllie

Written by  John Garvin and Andrew Wight based on a story by Andrew Wight

Based on true events almost certainly means that there is perhaps one percent of truth to what’s happening in the story.  If that percentage was enough for Dick Cheney to order the

Esa'ala Cave

attack of Iraq, then I guess it should work for a movie.  Sanctum comes with the full faith and credit of James Cameron.  These days, that is as good as gold.  Without it, this film would almost certainly have not made $80 million with a cast who’s biggest name is Reed Richards from Fantastic Four.  This time, Mr. Stretch is a jerk…but not really.  He is the money bags behind an enterprise of explorations in the Esa’ala Cave system.  He starts off all pomp and grandeur, saying all the things a a-hole with a lot of cash would say.  “Spared no expense…,” “…not going to be beaten by that cave…,” and “…play by my own rules…” are some of the gems tossed off in the first half hour.  In

Sanctum spends a lot of its time in between...

the same time period we see that an exploration camp is set up, run by a guy (Roxburgh) who is irritated by his son (Wakefield) and vise versa.  The camp is filled with varying personalities.  One can be assured that those with the most distinct personalities will last the longest.  In this kind of film, being a braggadocio money bags counts as personality.

There are some stunning visuals early on in Sanctum, and it is clear why this movie was filmed in 3D.  One is tempted to wish that the majority of the movie would continue in this way, indeed the film was promoted heavily as such.  Instead we more than a few scenes in mud, muck and guano.  Either way, there are enough good scenes to get you through.

More of this and less talking, please

Good, that is, if you don’t listen to the inane dialogue.  Everyone says the right thing and projects the right amount of belief or disbelief to keep everyone in trouble .  Since it was Wight who had actually lived through the events which put all 15 of his crew in danger from which they had all escaped, you can’t imagine he would have made any of the stereotypical characters that pollute this story.  In essence, any one who can help Roxburgh is a bit smarter, but doomed.  Anyone who disagrees with him or is in the slightest way petulant will stick around.

A quieter moment that is truly enjoyable

Still, if you like to explore unknown places while experiencing a bevy of clichés and well-worn story lines, this movie might be for you.  As for the acting, everyone is pretty much on the same page.  The son, Josh, is pretty annoying at first, but as he is allowed to exhibit common sense, later in the story, just in time.  Gruffud’s girlfriend Victoria (Parkinson), is a master climber.  You can imagine where this will come in handy, and where her sense of survival might be challenged.  Do not spend too much time on it.  She follows the same formula as the other characters.

In essence, this is just like every other disaster movie since the Poseidon Adventure, only it lacks what that one had: Gene Hackman.  He brought a sense of realism to the ludicrousness.  Here, we have Roxburgh, attempting to do the same.  He gives a game effort, but it stretches credibility more to have a collection of seasoned adventurers defy logic so consistently than, say, a bunch of passengers on a luxury liner.  So take it for what it is: a chance to get away in a carefully manicured estimation of a cave and, in its quiet moments towards the end of the film, a father and son moving forward in life.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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