“Sanctum” opens with a true sense of adventure but is soon drowned with a cliché plot, cliché characters and poor use of 3-D.The story, which is based on true events, follows a diving expedition to explore the Esa-ala cave system led by Frank (Richard Roxburgh). When flooding from a sudden storm traps several members of the team in the lower depths of the cave, they must search for a new way out.
From that point until the end, “Sanctum” takes viewers on a tired, old survival genre ride that has been done a hundred times before without adding anything unique. As the team finds itself farther and farther into the cave, people slowly start dying off one-by-one. During that time, you are treated to some truly tense moments, but all the stock scenes of bravery and cowardice quickly drag the film back into the humdrums.
In addition to the unoriginal plot, the characters were very much stock cardboard cutouts. There was Josh (Rhys Wakefield), the rebellious son, Frank, the misunderstood father, and Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), who was so radically cool that he borderlined on being straight gnarly.
With the exception of Carl, who was so over-the-top that he brought me to physical anger, all the other characters were stale. Dramatic moments boiled down to lifelessness emoting from one character to the next.
Although, some of the lack of emotion could be an issue of perception because the movie was so dimly lit, it was difficult to distinguish what was happening on screen. I understand how caves work-they are pitch black without any lights. So why muddy up already dark scenes with 3-D, which makes everything dimmer?
Furthermore, the unnatural darkness undercut some interesting camerawork that included some very visually pleasing imagery, capturing the beauty of the cave. When the remaining survivors found the tank inside the cave, the next few moments perfectly embodied the sense of adventure for which the movie strived.
But after about three minutes, the movie plunged back into the murky depths of obscured vision.
There were times that the cinematography truly brought the movie to life, but the unoriginal plot and characters prevented “Sanctum” from rising to the top.
But what else should we expect when James Cameron slaps his name on a movie?
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