Action Movies, by Ajay Singh, 07 April 2011

Director: Alister Grierson

Stars: Alice Parkinson, Allison Cratchley, James Cameron, Dan Wyllie, Richard Roxburgh, Sean Dennehy, Rhys Wakefield, Christopher Baker, John Garvin

Country: USA | Australia

Runtime: 108 min

Release Date:

Language: English

Official Site: Sanctum Official Site

It is evident, and quite natural, that James Cameron invests a lot less of himself into the films he executive produces than the ones he directs. It is important to remember that Sanctum belongs to the former group. It is wrong to criticize a film for adhering to the conventions of its genre. Sanctum is an unabashed special effects disaster film, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Sanctum

Sanctum

There is also nothing wrong with the exotic scenery, except for the fact that there is too little of it. There is nothing wrong with the 3D special effects, either – when you remember to notice them, that is. The trouble with Sanctum is its mind-numbingly apathetic approach to the material and its below-zero character development.

Of course we are provided with a healthy set of disaster film stock characters – the gruff, obstinate father with Principles (Richard Roxburgh), unable to connect with his surly teenage son (Rhys Wakefield), the good-natured self-sacrificing best friend (Daniel Wyllie), the dashing, irresponsible millionaire (Ioan Gruffudd), who may or may not possess the heart of a hero (in this case not), and the obligatory, scantily clad, sexy young female who tosses her hair coquettishly while showing all the macho men how tough she really is (Alice Parkinson). It would probably help if the dialogue were a little less clichéd, or if the characters had not been so consistently unlikable. We are after all, meant to identify with their suffering, discover hidden facets to their personalities, and hang on the edge of our seats rooting for them to succeed.

The characterizations are so bland and the story so predictable that after 15 minutes it is possible to compile a list in chronological order of who will die and when. Unfortunately, you probably won’t care enough to take the trouble. There is a persistent sense that neither director Alister Grierson, nor his actors even notice what they are saying or doing.  It is abundantly clear their hearts aren’t in it.

This level of indifference, verging on irritation makes it hard to build up any tension and suspense. Unsurprisingly, the 3D format does little to improve the overall impression. There are some rather impressive helicopter shots in the beginning, and a stunning shot of the cave from outside, but the moment any of the characters enter the frame, you may find yourself shutting down. Most of the effects inside the caves are actually disappointingly small-scale, dark, and claustrophobic almost to the point of indiscernibility, but not enough so to build fear and paranoia. After the first hour the dark blues and greys just start to blend together, and there are few visual accents to distract from the overall monotony.

Even the deaths of most of the characters are neither emotionally dramatic nor visually dynamic enough to merit more than an occasional blink. There are a few misplaced moments of artificial-looking gruesomeness, but nothing that will give you nightmares. The connections between the characters are so weakly established that it is actually surprising when anyone sheds a tear for anyone else.

As the they struggle half-heartedly for their under-developed lives, the characters exude none of the charisma so essential to a good disaster film, and at times you may catch yourself waiting for some of them to kick the proverbial bucket and rid us of their incessant whining. In the end, Sanctum feels like a glorified B-movie in disguise, trying to hide its laziness behind a genre that it doesn’t respect and a technology that has already been used better by much greater films. If you consider yourself a disaster film buff, spare yourself the pain and go see The Day After Tomorrow instead.

Sanctum [DVD] (DVD)
Actors: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker
Director: Alister Grieirson
Format: PAL
Language:
Subtitles:
Studio: Universal Pictures UK
Running Time: 109 minutes

List Price:
Price: £3.75
93 offers available from £0.20
4.0 out of 5 stars (234)

Sanctum Videos

Sanctum Trailer

Sanctum Stills

Rhys Wakefield in Sanctum

Rhys Wakefield in Sanctum

Richard Roxburgh and Rhys Wakefield in Sanctum

Richard Roxburgh and Rhys Wakefield in Sanctum

Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield and Alice Parkinson in Sanctum

Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield and Alice Parkinson in Sanctum

Sanctum

Sanctum

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