AccessReel Reviews: Sanctum

AccessReel Reviews: Sanctum

While trying to explore a cave system never before seen by humans, a group of scientists and adventurers become trapped and entwined in a life threatening attempt to escape. Starring Richard Roxburgh and Ioan Gruffudd, Sanctum is a claustrophobic underwater adventure into human sacrifice and ambition.

The first few scenes of Sanctum ran by pretty quickly, being that the entire movie is in 3D when things move quickly they are hard to focus on due to the frame rate. I was worried that the whole movie would be like this but was pleasantly surprised that most of the movie was very still, enough to see the scope of the landscapes. Sanctum began to be a comforting thought in that someone is finally figuring out that suspense is created by waiting for something to happen not struggling to see what is happening.

Sadly, despite the bonus of focus ability, Sanctum delves too deeply into the cliché and predictable. Although this movie is based on a true story, the character developments and story progression are easily predictable and follow the adventure\drama\suspense formula by the book. Richard Roxburgh is fantastic as always, stealing the movie away from the excessive overacting of his co-star Ioan Gruffudd. Ioan is a great actor and an Englishman in reality, whenever he puts on an American accent he seems to become very over the top in his delivery. This did however serve the purpose of his character. There are two types of characters in this film the adventurers who lead the expedition and the scientists who fund it, the conflict is between the people who know exactly what they are doing and what they need to do to survive and the people who are there to play explorer and get their names in the books, throw in some daddy issues and you have yourself an adventure\drama\suspense flick.

The visual effects for the most part were impressive, there were only a few instances of 3d that failed the suspension of disbelief. The underwater scenes going through the tunnels and cave crevices were done extremely well. The sequences where the characters were stuck in the water with no air were convincingly unnerving. How does one pretend to drown without actually inhaling water? The feeling of losing your breathe as an audience was simular to another James Cameron film The Abyss, your brain is telling you there is no way a human can stay under water that long without air and Sanctum is convincing in its distribution of panic. The director Allister Grierson should get more credit for that.

The lighting was dim and dull, which is exactly what it should have been. The tone was desperate and panicked which made a realistic portrayal of survival at any cost and the actors didn’t let up on the urgency of the situation by dwelling too long on emotional subtext. Though all of this is true, nothing surprised me (apart from a few gruesome effects), nothing jumped out from behind the veil of dramatic circumstance to hold my attention long enough to doubt what was going to happen next.  Richard Roxburgh is reason enough to see the movie for his acting and the determination of his character to prove he is the only one who knows what the hell he is doing, this may be another movie that relies too heavily on its scenery and stunts to hold your attention.

Our eyes were given a rest from the blur of “handheld” in this one so I give Sanctum 3 and a half stars out of 5

Sanctum is in cinemas on the 3rd of February 2011.