I seriously went into Sanctum thinking it was James Cameron’s next big 3D project after Avatar. But be warned: it’s not. I only discovered during the end credits that Cameron only acted as an executive producer and was neither the director nor a writer on this action-thriller about ‘cave diving’ explorations.
Never mind. High expectations or not, Sanctum was okay — but certainly not a groundbreaking or memorable film.
Directed by Aussie Alister Grierson (Kokoda, winner of 3 Tropfest awards) and written by Aussies John Garvin and Andrew Wight, Sanctum is very much an ‘Aussie’ film. It features a cast of predominantly Australians (with the exception of Richard Roxburgh, no one you would know unless you watch Aussie soap TV), with a couple of Americans (Ioan Grufford — Mr Fantastic from the Fantastic Four and Alice Parkinson) thrown in for good measure. But on the whole, despite the healthy budget, it does have a distinct Aussie feel throughout.
Contrary to what I had hoped for, Sanctum is a nature-based thriller that doesn’t feature any monsters lurking in the unknown. It’s supposedly ‘inspired’ by a true story involving co-writer Wight, who almost died whilst exploring a huge network of underwater caves.
I won’t give away much more than that, though I won’t really be spoiling much since the plot follows a pretty familiar trajectory for ‘disaster’ films of this sort.
On the bright side, I will say Sanctum is quite an interesting idea, and there are some decent moments of action and suspense. However, like some of James Cameron’s films, the dialogue is somewhat cringeworthy (at times), and the attempts at character development aren’t exactly subtle. The fact that the acting wasn’t top notch didn’t help.
As for the 3D (the film is only released in rip-off 3D), it wasn’t worth it. The only times when the 3D mattered was during long shots of the caves, where the effects gave you a sense of just how deep they were. But apart from that, it did little to enhance the viewing experience.
To sum it all up, Sanctum is a slightly above average, occasionally enjoyable though unncessary long film (109 minutes) that didn’t need to be in 3D.
3.25 stars out of 5