Directed by: Alister Grierson
Premise: Based on a true story, the film tells the story of explorers who become trapped when a storm system floods a cave.
What Works: Sanctum improves considerably in its second half, largely because most of the annoying characters have been killed off or spend time with a rebreather in their mouths and are unable to talk. When the action gets going after the initial flood, the film finally establishes a sense of purpose and follows it. As the survivors move through the cave system the filmmakers use lighting, framing, and sounds to create a very claustrophobic atmosphere. The second half of Sanctum also does much better with its characters, especially Richard Roxburgh as the team leader and Rhys Wakefield as his son. The pair have a credible relationship that develops nicely in their struggle to survive.
What Doesn’t: The first half of Sanctum is difficult to sit through. The characters are almost unanimously unlikable and unsympathetic which makes it impossible for the audience to get emotionally involved when the characters are put in jeopardy. A lot of the dialogue is terrible and most of the actors don’t help it with their awkward delivery. The story never answers basic questions like why they are in the cave in the first place and what the relationships are between them. The action sequence in which the caves floods is poorly staged; the film does not establish landmarks to give the audience a sense of geography so as the actors run through tunnels and crevices it is difficult to tell where they are or where they are headed. The film also fails to provide adequate exposition about caving safety issues that come to bear later in the story. Viewers with no knowledge of caving or diving are likely to be confused by these developments.
Bottom Line: Sanctum is an average movie. The second half is good enough to make it worth a look although it is not a film for the ages.
Episode: N/A (February 27, 2011)