Sanctum (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner4/02/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Enjoyable disaster-thriller with impressive special effects, spectacular scenery, thrilling set pieces and a strong cast, though the characters are clichéd and the dialogue is pure cheese.

What's it all about?
Directed by Alister Grierson (and NOT by executive producer James Cameron, as you could be forgiven for thinking from the publicity), Sanctum is inspired by a true story, apparently, and stars Rhys Wakefield as Josh, an Australian thrill-seeker who arrives in Papua New Guinea and meets up with American financier Carl (a miscast, uncomfortable-looking Ioan Gruffud) and his girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson). From there, they travel to a remote cave in the middle of the jungle where they join Josh's no-nonsense explorer father Frank (Richard Roxburgh) and the rest of his team on an underwater cave diving expedition.

Their arrival coincides with both the discovery of a gigantic, cathedral-like underwater chamber and the accidental death of a team member, for which Frank and Josh immediately blame each other. However, when a sudden tropical storm floods the caves and blocks the exit, the team have to work together and dive further underground in search of a way out.

The Good
The cast do well with their thinly-sketched, painfully clichéd characters, particularly Wakefield and Roxburgh, who put plenty of effort into their strained father-son scenes, even if the script lets them down. Dan Wyllie is particularly good as wisecracking team member Crazy George, who, in the film's best moment, gets to deliver the delightfully offbeat line “That's not a wizard.” Sadly, the odd wise-crack aside, that's pretty much all there is for humour.

The scenery (the cave scenes were shot in South Australia) is genuinely spectacular and the diving scenes are extremely well done (it's here that Cameron's influence is most keenly felt). The special effects are equally good (the water wrangling is particularly impressive) and Grierson keeps things moving with a series of thrilling set pieces.

The Bad
Essentially, this is a cheesy disaster movie with all the attendant clichés that that implies, from the atrocious dialogue (someone actually says “What could possibly go wrong?”) to the fact that the characters get killed off one by one in an entirely predictable order, slasher-movie style. However, the film misses a trick by not fully exploiting its claustrophobic potential – it could have learned a few things from The Descent in that regard.

Worth seeing?
Despite its cliché-laden dialogue and thinly-sketched characters, Sanctum is an enjoyable, well made disaster flick, providing you don't mind your thrills liberally loaded with cheese.

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Sanctum (M)
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Content updated: 13/12/2019 07:37

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