Synopsis: The 3-D 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 3-D 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.
Release Date: February 4, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
The lush rain forest of Papua New Guinea is unmatched with it’s striking beauty and desolateness. It stretches for miles, as the helicopter carrying some of the main characters glides over its tree line and between river ravines. The forest breaks apart to reveal a large crater-like hole, reminiscent of a black hole entrenched in this beautiful landscape and wholly out of place. This is where Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) has been exploring; this is the entrance to the Esa-ala Caves. The cave itself, from above, is a sight to behold. With an unfathomable circumference and terrorizing deep dark depths for both the experienced climber and layman, the cave is a natural wonder that cares not for man, or anything else.
We find our main character, Frank McGuire, deep inside of the cave with his fellow divers and crewmen. It has been 17 days since they have seen daylight and their time is almost up as a storm is approaching the island that will undoubtedly flood the caverns. With top of the line equipment and years of experience it is this team that plans to map the entire cave system, going into its depths where no human has ever been before. Joined by his son Josh (Rhys Wakefield), financier Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), team members and Carl’s inexperienced girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson), what should have been one final dive before the storm breaks turns into a journey of survival. The storm arrives early, the radio is down so the early warning signal is missed, and as the water rushes into the caves everyone becomes trapped inside without a clear means of escape. The only option these climbers and divers have is to go deeper into the cave, into uncharted territory, hoping to find an exit via the river Frank believes the cave lets out into.
This is where the film should heighten the stakes for the characters. These people are trapped in one of the deadliest natural phenomena that exists in the world, pitted against the strongest and most violent of villains, nature itself. Yet the movie plays out at a uniform pace, never exerting itself on the viewer or giving way to an amplified level of terror. Deaths occur, painful decisions are made, and everything is done in a monotone fashion. The script does nothing to try and exemplify the situation as the history of the caves is barely covered, the threats that lay in wait for the team are never discussed; everyone seems to just know what they are in for, except the viewer. Had the script used this lack of knowledge of the viewer to it’s advantage and shocked us with the many ways mother nature can completely screw with man it would have been fantastic. Does not happen though. Even the claustrophobic spaces are neglected as you realize you feel quite safe and secure in your theatre seat because the inner turmoil, anxiety, and fear the characters are presumably feeling stays put on screen. Sanctum may not lose your interest, save for the visuals, but it does not engage you either. The father/son bonding adventure it becomes near end is a snooze after the action-adventure it promised has yet to be fulfilled. The film reminded me of an underwater documentary where there is not much talking, not much of a story, but enough visual stimulation to keep you focused until it is over. Unfortunately, all Sanctum has is age old rock formations and lots of bubbles, no sharks or fish.
Sanctum is a beautifully shot film, even if it is capitalizing on the unnecessary 3D camera usage. The camera moves effortlessly in the water, following the characters as they dive deeper into the caves. It reveals the valleys inside in tremendous wide shots, exemplifying the vastness that exists under the ground. In small confined spaces the extreme close-ups reflect the smallness of the area as well as that of the character moving through. Even in the darkest scenes the camera uses the sparse light to showcase the human characters and the greatest character of all, the cave itself. This is a film about the cave and its power. Although the camera is not utilized to explore the claustrophobic nature of this place, its deep history and never treaded areas, it does succeed at presenting the cave as a larger than life presence; one that can easily take your life.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Alister GriersonRyan KavanaughMichael Maher
- Producer(s): Peter RawlinsonAndrew WightAndrew Wight
- Screenwriter(s): Ioan Gruffudd (Carl)Richard Roxburgh (Frank McGuire)Rhys Wakefield (Josh McGuire)
- Story: Alice Parkinson (Victoria)
- Cast: Dan Wyllie (George)Allison Cratchley (Judes)Christopher Baker (J.D.) John Garvin (Jim Sergeant)Mark WarnerJules O’LoughlinNicholas McCallum
- Cinematographer: David Hirschfelder
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USAAustralia