Action Movie Fanatix Review: Sanctum

Sanctum banner

The Only Way Out Is Down

Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie

Director: Alister Grierson

2011  |  108 Minutes  |  Rated R

“What could possibly go wrong diving in caves?” – Victoria Elaine

I’d put off seeing Sanctum for some time do to Jim Cameron’s involvement and the lackluster reviews but when it showed up on Netflix it caught me in the mood for a bit of an adventure and it seemed to fit the bill just fine.

Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) and his crew set out to map a network of underwater caverns but are trapped when the cave floods, leaving them to try to find another way out of the cave.

Some of the early shots felt more like something I would see in a science museum theater rather than my local multiplex.  You know the ones… camera mounted to the front of a helicopter as it swoops low along a tree line then up over mountain tops.  It looks super cool but felt oddly out of place in a theatrical release.

The cave and underwater scenery and camera work is absolutely beautiful though.  It isn’t hard to understand why someone like Frank could completely engross himself in this lifestyle.  The isolation and creepiness of the caves and dives are also felt.

There is a bit of dodgy CGI that is used in one or two scenes that unfortunately takes the viewer completely out of the movie – ruining the amazing immersion that the movie had going for it.

Frank is made out to be a real bad guy for much of the movie.  He’s been a horrible father.  He’s spent oodles of other peoples’ money in his adventures.  He’s led a number of people to their deaths in these caves.  And yet… he’s our hero.  He’s the only hope these people have of survival.  And as his son learns, he’s not such a bad guy once you get to know him in his world.

The movie is “based on a true story” which means that at one point some people died in a cave diving accident and they decided to make a movie about people dying in caves.  This movie should really be called “Watch People Die In A Cave” because when you aren’t watching a person die in a cave you are watching people you know are going to die soon.  Every death in the movie is preceded by a long period of beating you over the head with – this person is going to die.  This person made one mistake early in the movie and that mistake is going to haunt them until they finally die from a completely unrelated cause.

Sanctum scratched the itch I was looking to have scratched.  It’s a realistic adventure story.  It never blows you away but it also never stops being exciting all the way through to the completion of the story.  Aside from the bad bit of CGI early on I would actually say it is near perfect for what it is.

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