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Sanctum - Blu-ray Movie Review

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Sanctum - Movie Review


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2 stars

Based very, very, very loosely upon the events of an Australian cave-diving accident in 1988, Sanctum provides a chilling look at heavy-handed adventure and at Hollywood acting inside what can only be described as one prolonged IMAX film.  The thrills are somewhat there, but when two scuba-divers-turned-screenwriters provide the script, don’t expect real characters or an attempt at writing honest dialogue.  Executively-produced by James Cameron, Sanctum is further proof that the man really loves archetypically big and shallow films – like Titanic and Avatar and … ehm…films about caves.

Arriving in the visually arresting location of Papua, New Guinea, millionaire-turned-adventurer Carl (Ioan Gruffudd) and his girlfriend, Victoria (Alive Parkinson) go cave-diving to record the unknown and to be thrill-seekers.  Joining in on the fun is the father and son team of Frank Maguire (Richard Roxburgh) and Josh (Rhys Wakefield) among a cast of others who are quickly disposed of.  The two do not get along well due to the fact that Frank, a legend of underwater diving and exploration, has spent more time under the earth then on top of it with his now-grown son and, leaving all professionalism at the entrance of the cave, they carry these grudges with them.

Entering the unexplored cavern, the team soon finds themselves at odds with the elements and each other as a sudden hurricane traps them in the cave, blocking all known entrances.  Yes, folks, they’ll have to trust each other and therein lies the faults of the movie.  It’s old and tired.  You’ve heard every single line of dialogue before and in much better films.  Sanctum is also without a dab of humor which, for a B-movie attempt like this, is a sad mistake from its makers.  We have the squirrelly capitalist and the gung-ho veteran of adventure, yet we don’t have any real moments; it’s all line-reading from its actors with no attempt by its screenwriters at character development.

With lines that beckon back to the adventure serials of a by-gone era, Sanctum remains as one dimensional as its flimsy poster.  Gruffold gets the most icing on his clichéd-baked cake and sparks a few “palm to the face” reactions from the crowd with his absolutely aggravating dialogue.  Yet, it is Wakefield who earns the February Schmuck Award with his vomit-inducing attempt at backstory-ridden pathos.  While Roxburgh certainly looks the part of rugged adventurer, he never stops to actually think about their insanely intense situation, so no true drama – even with his take on Paul Hogan’s Crocodile Dundee character - ever unfolds.

As with any IMAX film, the visuals of the cave and some of the underwater footage are visually stunning.  The cinematography, provided by Jules O'Loughlin, certainly rivals what Cameron and Wright were able to do with their Titanic documentary a few years back; there are some fascinating landmarks captured below the surface here.  The 3D; however, is largely wasted – being fully utilized in one dynamic scene where the cave seems to come alive with visual wonder – because when the team does get someplace cool, they have to rush on which doesn’t give the audience much time to appreciate what they are seeing.  It’s a serious dent to the film’s credibility when the whole point of the picture is to go somewhere different – do something no one else has done – not rush off in wild panic.

Directed by Alister Grierson, Sanctum mainly sinks below the weight of too many clichés, too many wasted moments, and too many disingenuous screams.  It won’t scare you with its underwater thrills, but it will frighten you with some pretty awful acting and screenwriting.

In spite of its Cameron-sized billing for promised underwater 3D adventure, Sanctum hardly makes a splash.


{2jtab: Film Details}

Sanctum Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and disturbing images.
Director: Alister Grierson
: John Garvin, Andrew Wight
Richard Roxburgh; Ioan Gruffudd; Rhys Wakefield; Alice Parkinson; Dan Wyllie
Genre: Action | Adventure | Thriller
Memorable Movie Quote:
"these rocks. These caves. Where else can you shine a light where no human's been?"
Universal Pictures
The only way out is down
Official Site: www.sanctummovie.com
Release Date: February 4, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Plot Synopsis: The 3D action-thriller Sanctum, from executive producer James Cameron, follows a team of underwater cave divers on a treacherous expedition to the largest, most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth. When a tropical storm forces them deep into the caverns, they must fight raging water, deadly terrain and creeping panic as they search for an unknown escape route to the sea.

Master diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) has explored the South Pacific's Esa-ala Caves for months. But when his exit is cut off in a flash flood, Frank's team--including 17-year-old son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) and financier Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd)--are forced to radically alter plans. With dwindling supplies, the crew must navigate an underwater labyrinth to make it out. Soon, they are confronted with the unavoidable question: Can they survive, or will they be trapped forever?

Shot on location off the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, Sanctum employs 3D photography techniques Cameron developed to lens Avatar. Designed to operate in extreme environments, the technology used to shoot the action-thriller will bring audiences on a breathless journey across plunging cliffs and into the furthest reaches of our subterranean world.

{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Details}

Sanctum - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
2 stars

4 stars

Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 7, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy (as download); BD-Live; D-Box; Mobile features



  • Feature-length audio commentary with Director Alister Grierson, co-writer/producer Andrew Wight and actor Rhys Wakefield.

Special Features:

  • Sanctum: The Real Story (HD, 47 minutes)
  • Nullarbor Dreaming (SD, 45 minutes)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 9 minutes)
  • BD-Live Functionality and News Ticker
  • My Scenes Bookmarking


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