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Sanctum movie poster

Sanctum: Movie Review

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Rated: R
Directed by: Alister Grierson

Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wylie
Released by: Universal Pictures

In Short: Fantastic action sequences combine with a cornball, predictable plot in this underwater adventure presented by James Cameron. Too bad he didn’t write and direct it, too.

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Claustrophobic Terrors in 3D

“Sanctum,” the new adventure film executive produced by James Cameron, is designed to make you gasp for air. And it succeeds, with plenty of heart-throbbing sequences that happen deep inside the earth, ostensibly in a massive cave located in the heart of Papua New Guinea.

The fact that the cave doesn’t really exist shouldn’t stop you from checking out this 3D flick — go for double fun and see it in IMAX 3D if you can. For the visuals are terrific, from the rappelling and rock climbing it takes to get inside to the scuba-diving sequences as the explorers follow an underwater river deep into the bowels of the earth.

But the fact that this movie claims to be “inspired by true events,” yet tells a completely fictional story, may just bother you a bit. For while the basic plot — a group of cave explorers gets trapped deep inside and has to find an alternative way out — did actually happen to the screenwriter, everything else is completely made up, right down to the setting. And made up with a streak of melodrama mixed with over-the-top characterizations, featuring cartoon characters that will pull you right out of the tense moments and into a “oh come on, you’ve got to be kidding” feeling.

Richard Roxburgh and Rhys Wakefield in Sanctum Rhys Wakefield in Sanctum

That’s unfortunate, because the incredible visuals and exciting action, both underwater and in some very tight spaces, are terrific. All are shot in gorgeous Queensland, Australia, and created with the help of Cameron. His underwater expertise springs from the real expeditions he funded (and actively participated in) in order to explore the wreckage of the Titanic. He hands over all the gadgets they used there to “Sanctum” director Alister Grierson, with the result being some amazing 3D moments.

But Grierson and his screenwriters are no Cameron, whose genius comes as much in the writing of his films as the directing, as he creates compelling stories to go with his incredible visuals. “Sanctum” could have used his pen, along with his underwater expertise.


Reviewed by Jenny Peters


(Updated: 02/04/11 CT)

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