PLOT: A team of underwater cave explorers are trapped during a cyclone.
REVIEW: SANCTUM is a film which alternately frustrated and thrilled me. I love a good survival thriller. My favorite of this genre would have to be the great ALIVE, based on a true story which memorably featured Ethan Hawke and Co., being forced to resort to cannibalism to survive a plane crash in the Andes.
Alas, SANCTUM is no ALIVE, but dammit- it could have been! The central premise, being that a team of cave explorers are trapped in an unexplored cave system during a tropical storm should have made for a damn exciting yarn. Think of THE DESCENT, set underwater, minus the monsters. Everything about SANCTUM should have added up to a spectacularly thrilling film, but every time I started to get involved in the film, there was one major aspect that kept me from losing myself in the film. Sadly, that aspect was a pretty major one, in that- with one exception, all of the performances in this film range from mediocre to shockingly bad.
I suppose director Alister Grierson had to save most of his modest budget for the (admittedly spectacular) 3D FX, with little left over that would allow him to pull together a good cast. Almost to a man, all of the acting in SANCTUM is miserably bad, and on the level of a Roger Corman, SHARKTOPUS opus. A survival film isnt worth a damn if you dont care about the people youre watching, and in SANCTUM I didnt give a damn if anyone lived or died, which is fatal to a film like this.
Probably the worst offender here has to be Ioan Gruffudd, who, just a few years ago, seemed to be on the cusp of fame. Hes bloody atrocious here as the token rich a-hole member of the crew, whos footing the bill for Richard Roxburgh, and son Rhys Wakefields cave exploring scheme. Throughout, Gruffudd gave a Razzie-worthy performance, especially towards the end when he starts to go a little squirrelly.
As his love interest, Alice Parkinson doesnt fare much better, with her playing the type of annoying character who refuses to don a wetsuit when diving, and basically puts the team into danger any chance she gets. Finally, theres Wakefield as Roxburghs son, who has major daddy issues, and whines his way through ninety percent of the running time, before finally manning up in the final act. Blame the writing if you will, but Wakefield makes a fairly bland lead.
The only actor who distinguishes himself is Richard Roxburgh as the de-facto lead, playing the hardened team leader who tries to lead his mismatched crew to safety. Its as clichéd as you can get in a film like this, with him being the mean dad who never tells his son he loves him until the proverbial shit hits the fan, but at least he seems to be trying to give a good performance.
The only thing that saves SANCTUM from being a total write-off is the amazing 3D FX, done under producer James Camerons supervision. Sure enough, this is the most immersive 3D experience Ive had since AVATAR, and some of the action sequences are breathtaking. If only this had a good script/performance to back it up.
All in all, SANCTUM is certainly worth a watch if you want to take in some really great 3D, but the lousy acting, and hack writing make this a questionable recommendation at best. Its a real shame, as SANCTUM strikes me a major missed opportunity. This could have been a great survival epic, but instead its just a mediocre piece of eye-candy.
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