Sanctum: An underwater cave diving team experiences a life-threatening crisis during an expedition to the unexplored & least accessible cave system in the world. Review: Thumbs down!

Business rating: 1 star

Star cast: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd.

What’s Good: The cinematography of the underwater sequences; the twist in the end.

What’s Bad: The regular script; the average performances of the cast; the lack of emotional connect; badly-used 3D technology.

Verdict: Sanctum might have the James Cameron tag attached to it, but it does not come anywhere close to any of his other productions. Flop!

Loo break: Anytime in the first few reels of the film.

Watch or Not?:  Watch Sanctum if and only if you have absolutely nothing to do.

Sanctum Review

Relativity Media, Universal Pictures and Wayfare Entertainment’s Sanctum is the story of a group of underwater cave-divers which is stuck in a very deep and complex cave system. The group’s only way out is by going deeper into the underground river system.

Master diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) has been exploring, for years, a very large and inaccessible underground cave system, the Esa-ala Caves, of Papua New Guinea. Financier Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd) is funding the expedition, the aim of which is to find the hidden link between the deep cave system and the ocean. Frank’s son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield), has a grudge against his father for not being a good parent. Nevertheless, Josh helps out in his father’s underwater expeditions.

One fine day, Frank finds the link between the deep cave and the ocean but loses one of the divers of the group in an accident. Incidentally, Josh, Carl and Carl’s girlfriend, Victoria (Alice Parkinson), have just joined the diving group in its underground camp.

Soon, a tropical storm rages on the ground, causing a flash flood in the cave system. Josh, Frank, Carl, Victoria, and Frank’s assistant, George (Dan Wyllie), are now stuck inside, even as the cave stars filling up with water. When their sole exit route is blocked by a boulder, they have no option left but to explore the newfound link to the sea and find another way of reaching the surface. In this attempt, the motley group fights raging water currents, the deadly terrain, even death and deceit. Are they able to make it back to the surface? Do Josh and Frank reconnect? Is the expedition a success? The rest of the film answers these questions.

Story and Screenplay – Sanctum Review

We have seen many underwater adventures over the years and Sanctum really brings nothing new to the table. Andrew Wight’s story is clichéd. It tries to explore a father-son relationship in difficult circumstances (in this case, an underwater adventure). The added twist at the end of the script, when one of the characters turns against the rest, is the only thing that impresses the audience. However, there is a basic flaw with the whole idea of the expedition itself. Although the film is inspired by real events, enough reasoning is not provided for the costly and dangerous expedition being undertaken and financed in the first place; neither are the geological benefits of finding a link to the sea explained. Therefore, the base of the story itself remains questionable. Frank’s love for the caves, and his despise for the real world, too, look contrived.

The film’s screenplay (John Garvin and Andrew Wight) is an improvement over the story in that it manages to maintain the pace of the drama in the second half, when the explorers pass through various dangerous obstacles. But the many underwater scenes start to bore the audience, especially because there is nothing much happening on the screen. The moment one man dies, the audience knows that it’s soon going to be a pile of dead bodies. The story fails to connect with the audience at an emotional level also. The father-son relationship, or Carl and Victoria’s short-lived romance fail to touch one’s heart, even though the dialogues clearly attempt to do so.

Sanctum Review (Sanctum Movie Stills)

Star Performances – Sanctum Review

Richard Roxburgh does a fair job as the menacing and gritty diver. But he could certainly have done with some support by the rest of the cast. Ioan Gruffudd and Rhys Wakefield, actors who take up rest of the screen time, overact to glory. Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker (J.D.), Nicole Downes (Liz)  and Nea Dia (Kastom Shaman) are average in their small roles.

Direction and Visual effects – Sanctum Review

Alister Grierson’s direction is poor. He should have concentrated on sprucing up the screenplay and his actors’ performances rather than doing heavy-duty 3D work which anyway is unimpressive most of the time. The constant disorientation caused by the multiple layers of water and rock, and the multiple light-beams (created due to the badly used 3D) strain the eyes and add no value to the script. Jules O’Loughlin’s cinematography is striking, especially in the underwater sequences. Mark Warner’s editing is patchy. David Hirschfelder’s background score is average.

The Last Word
All in all, Sanctum is a dull film. It will see poor collections across theatres in India.

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