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A movie directed by Alister Grierson

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A rather excessively bland dive.

  • Jul 18, 2011
*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 oh, believe me when I say that I did! Instead of being interesting and psychological, "Sanctum" is melodramatic, pathetic, cheap, and all-around weak. It has some good photography, sure, but does that make for a good movie? Sometimes, yes, and sometimes, no. There are some movies that look so astounding that their visual style characterizes the entire film. These films are good; ones like "Sanctum" are not.

In its world of one-dimensional and annoying characters and tight spaces, "Sanctum" is the story of some inspired adventurers; Josh (Rhys Wakefield), his father Frank (Richard Roxburgh), Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), Victoria (Alice Parkinson), Judes (Allison Cratchley), George (Daniel Wyllie), and then some.

The "adventurers" intend to explore an underwater cave. They shall dive because this is what they do for thrills and enjoyment. On that day, they venture into dangerous territory, within the cave, known as Devil's Restriction. Since this turns out to be almost instant religious symbolism, you can expect the obvious; deaths of various divers, melodramatic tension between father-and-son, and an absurdly stupid ending.

The film claims to be "based on true events", and it might be. The movie itself was co-written by Andrew Wight, who based his major part of the story off of his own little near-death-experience while undersea-cave diving. Oh, how sweet; he's made a movie that's basically about himself. He may have had a near-death experience, but he certainly can't write for shit. "Sanctum" contains one of the worst excuses for a screenplay I've had the displeasure of having to see through a film in 2011. The characters are poorly written, the story is all-around uninvolving, and I get this feeling that I'm supposed to feel bad, scared, thrilled, and whatever else.

Exactly what did James Cameron have to do with this thing? Did he simply give the filmmaker some of his cool 3-D tech and send him on his way to film a movie? I get the feeling that this is exactly how their relationship is, or was. James Cameron himself is fond of the deep depths of the ocean, and I imagine that he could make material like "Sanctum" work better than it does here. Cameron could have filled his underwater labyrinths with emotion, wit, characters, spirituality. He's a bold filmmaker, and he doesn't deserve to be attached to this crap. Nobody does, really, not even these actors; especially not Daniel Wyllie, who is talented, and plays an appropriately whacky character.

Alas, there is one solid redeeming factor; the underwater cinematography. Most all of "Sanctum" looks beautiful. I was willing to be entertained by these images, and I was. Some sequences shot underwater are beautiful and fascinating; some are just "meh". I myself am as fascinated with sea life and even underwater caves as much as Cameron is; but I wouldn't produce this movie. I wouldn't want anything to do with it. In a world where Hollywood only hires directors who can successfully suck the life out of everything in a film, "Sanctum" is not quite the worst of movies, but hardly the best either. It's a movie filled to the top with corn, sentiment, cheese, and whatever else. Oh, and another redeeming factor; if you've ever wanted to know what happens to cheese when it goes underwater, here's your chance. And that's not speaking in literal terms; and it's not in the film's favor either. But of course I won't keep you from seeing it just as I won't keep you from skipping it. Your choice, friend.

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July 18, 2011
I was a little kinder to this one before but now that I've seen it again on BLU, I have to say, it was rather boring. I guess the 3D experience in the theater helped a little before, seeing it on 2D revealed all its falws. Nice review
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 . 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.
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


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 ...

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Director: Alister Grierson
Release Date: 4 February 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: John Garvin, Andrew Wight
Runtime: 109 min
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