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Author: JoAnne Hyde
February 4, 2011
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Sanctum, produced by James Cameron in 3-D, is not a film for the faint-hearted. This story of an ill-fated cave diving expedition was loosely based on the true-life experience of co- screenwriter Andrew Wight, an experienced cave diver and explorer, who was once trapped with 14 other people in a cave for two days. When their entrance collapsed, they had to look for another way out. The story line of the film really only uses the idea of being trapped and having to find another way out; otherwise, it’s fiction. It is, at times, agonizing to watch the characters struggle with their dilemma. The cast of largely unknown actors does lend credence to the story since you’re not distracted by “stars”.

Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) is the elder-statesman adventurer/cave diving expert who is leading the expedition to map a remote and unexplored cave in New Guinea. He and his crew have established a base camp about two kilometers down, at the point where they’ll be diving in a subterranean river to find the cave’s outlet to the ocean. The expedition has been financed by arrogant billionaire and amateur adventurer Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd) who has just arrived with his girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson) to witness the outcome of his investment. Also along for the ride, unwillingly, is Frank’s son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield). The conflict between father and son provides one sub-plot, while the “hot-dogging” of overly-confident but inexperienced tag-alongs provides the other main sub-plot. The main story line is, of course, the situation the group faces when a tropical storm floods the cave, cuts off their entrance/exit portal, and they must fight dwindling supplies and rising panic to try to find an escape route. As Frank says, “Follow the river. It’ll lead us to the sea.” Unfortunately for them, the river is not all that easy to follow. There are lots of dead ends, sheer drops, and teeny-tiny spaces they must fit through. Ooops! Not everyone will make it. That goes without saying, but there’s ample foreshadowing for the characters who meet an early demise. The rest? Well, you’ll just have to stick with the dwindling group to find out who makes it.

The actors do an adequate job with their roles with the exception of Ioan Gruffudd who plays Carl. He delivers his lines as if he’s reading them from a cue card. He’s Welsh, so maybe it was the American accent that caused the problem. The scenery, both real and generated, is breath-taking. Although set in New Guinea, it was filmed in Queensland, Australia. The cave scenes, which make up the majority of the film, touch on just about every fear it’s possible to have: heights, falling, deep water, darkness, running out of air while diving, claustrophobia, treachery, and you will probably think of a few more as you watch the film. For me, it made me flash back to my trip to Carlsbad Caverns when I was 12 or 13. It was fine until we got to the bottom and they turned off the lights for a few seconds so that we could experience total darkness. That was my first and last cave expedition. If you’re braver than me, especially if you’re interested in extreme sports and the like, you will most likely enjoy the film. However, the opening shot almost gives away too much, and 3-D didn’t really seem to add that much. I’m not sure it’s worth the premium you have to pay for it. The preview audience seemed to enjoy the film, especially some guys I overheard excitedly discussing rock climbing. Extreme sports, extreme adventures, extreme film!

GRADE: B
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JoAnne Hyde Likes film.
She likes to write.
So she combines those two loves by reviewing films for BOF

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