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Sanctum is a 2011 3D adventure drama film directed by Alister Grierson and executive produced by James Cameron.


During an underwater cave exploration in Papua New Guinea, five people are trapped when a cyclone starts flooding the cave. With the water going up and the air running out, their only hope of survival is to travel through the unexplored underwater caves following the course of the river that leads into the ocean.

The film begins with the explorers 17-year-old Josh (Rhys Wakefield), expedition bank-roller Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd) and his girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson), reaching the cave by helicopter at the Esa'ala Cave site.

Upon reaching the cave it is made known that Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh), Josh's father and a master diver, has already set up a forward base camp deep inside the cave. The team has been exploring the cave system for months, and have set up an excellent communication network that allows communication with the camp from above. While Victoria and Josh rappel down the cave, Carl chooses to dive and parachute into it, reaching the base camp before Josh and Victoria.

While the guests get comfortable, Frank and diver Judes (Allison Cratchley) decide to explore an unexplored section of the cave known as Devil's Restriction. Squeezing through a narrow passage they reach a giant cavern with huge ceilings, but while they are returning, Judes' hose snaps. With no backup tank, Frank offers Judes his full face diving mask to buddy breathe. After exchanging the mask twice, Judes begins to panic and refuses to let go of Frank's hose. Frank reluctantly pushes her away so that he can breathe, and Judes dies in front of his eyes. The entire action is captured and witnessed by the members of the forward base through the rover trailing the divers.

Josh accuses Frank of murdering Judes, while the others try to convince him that Frank took heroic risks in attempting to help her. Frank tells Josh that Judes knew the risks, and that Josh was responsible in part for the accident since he failed to procure the backup tanks. Meanwhile, a fierce storm develops on the surface, and attempts by the surface team to warn the divers fail. Unaware of the storm, some of the divers decide to return to the surface where they encounter water gushing in. Josh and Luko (Cramer Cain) refuse to escape without warning the dive team.

During the escape Luko is badly injured and Frank drowns him in a mercy killing. Frank asks Victoria to use Judes' suit but she refuses. As a result, her body becomes cold. Later, George (Daniel Wyllie), Frank's friend, suffers from decompression sickness and stays behind so that he will not slow down the group. While they cross a gorge in the cave, Victoria finds it difficult to grasp the rope. When Carl shines a torch in her face to see if she is fine, she loses her foothold and trips. Her hair becomes trapped in the equipment. Despite Frank's warnings, she uses her knife, unknowingly cuts the rope, falls into the churning waters below, and dies. The divers lose all but one rebreather in the accident. The teams regroup and decide to rest. Frank explains that he intends to use the rebreather to dive and find a way to come back for them.

Carl, maddened by grief, suddenly dives in with the last tank and Frank loses him in the cave. Josh happens to find bat droppings and infers that there might be a way out, because bats only use passages (and entrances) that are big enough for humans. The two make their way out and find an opening up to the surface along with a Japanese tank from World War IIthat crashed through. They both decide to find another way through the cave rather than wait to be rescued. They find acrazed Carl who attacks Frank and badly injures him by impaling him on some minor stalagmites before diving back into the cave without a tank in hope of finding a way out.

Frank begs Josh to mercy-kill him, which Josh does after some hesitation. Josh dives and continues to swim on a single tank. As he swims, he sees Carl who has died due to lack of oxygen. When his light dies, he uses the light in the boar tooth his father gave him. Finally the tank runs out of air and Josh, remembering his father's words, uses air bubbles trapped on the cave ceiling and continues ahead. Finally exhausted and on the verge of giving up, Josh sees sunlight ahead and breaks the surface, emerging in the Solomon Sea and swims to a nearby beach, where a mother with two children takes care of him.

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CastRichard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Christopher Baker, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Nicole Downs, Allison Cratchley, Cramer Cain, Andrew Hansen
DirectorAlister Grierson
Release Date:  4 February 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating:  R
Screen WriterJohn Garvin, Andrew Wight
Runtime:  109 min
What's your opinion on Sanctum?
11 Ratings: +1.6
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More Sanctum reviews
review by . February 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Being promoted as “executively-produced” by James Cameron, the director of “Avatar”, the film “SANCTUM” directed by Alister Grierson generated some buzz in the movie community, and I was almost certain that it would once again display the advancements in 3D technology. I wasn’t really expecting much when I went to see this film; it was inspired by true events when one of the writers of its script Andrew Wright experienced an event that almost cost them their …
review by . July 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*1/2 out of ****     "Sanctum" is a full-time underwater cave adventure that bears the spirit of a good thriller, but none of the quality. Executive Produced and "presented" by "King of the World" James Cameron, the movie is the kind that I'd never thought I'd see turn up. It's a movie that was essentially destined to be good, but then the wrong filmmaker got a hold of it, and all went to bloody hell. And that's too bad, because I desperately wanted to enjoy it.    And …
review by . March 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
It's all about survival
Caves are awesome! It has a life of its own, hidden below and underneath everyone's scrutiny. To go into caves, exploring what's in them, is an adventure of a lifetime. Virgin caves are what explorers go after. I'd have to contend myself with the tourists' fare. Still, there are less dangers involved and one gets to return without losing one's life and bearings!         Sanctum was shot in Gold Coast and not Papua New Guinea. The story revolves around …
review by . July 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A Beautiful B Movie...nothing more
“Sanctum” is a film about a group of people who aren’t very comfortable in the real world, with its messy relationships and mortgage payments, mixed motivations and emotional complexity and such. They prefer to spend their time exploring subterranean landscapes, alternately climbing and diving their way through lost parts of the world. They seem some stunningly amazing and beautiful sights along the way, and also face life and death situations almost every day.      …
review by . February 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Sanctum exemplifies what happens when innovation becomes more important than a screenplay. The story is contrived, calculating, and unpleasant, but never fear – James Cameron is the executive producer, and he will see to it that we gawk helplessly at the difficult camerawork, the authentically claustrophobic sets, and the 3D effects. Perhaps it was his intention for director Alister Grierson to experience his own private version of The Abyss, …
review by . March 11, 2011
Caving seems like a cool thing in theory, but in practice I'm sure it's not all that cool (except for those special few that do it professionally).  The element of surprise and the vast unknown is terrifying enough above ground and I'm not sure I would want to put myself out there somewhere in the deep blue sea, especially if it has never been "explored" before.       Sanctum is an adventure thriller that will keep you entertained (so long as you …
Quick Tip by . February 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Solid film. Probably not the greatest film ever made but is enjoyed it. It reminded me of Into Thin Air, but for caves.
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