"Sanctum" sinks with boring writing, poor dialogue, and gratuitous visual effects
“Sanctum,” directed by Alister Grierson, focuses on the allegedly true story of a group of underwater cave divers lead by Frank McGuire. This group is spelunking in the largest, most complex unexplored cave in the world, the Esa-ala Caves in the South Pacific. The crew consists of Frank, his 17-year old son Josh, the wealthier financier Carl, Carl’s girlfriend, and George, Frank’s longtime friend.
The story begins when a powerful storm causes immense flooding, leaving the crew trapped deep within the cave. Their only chance of survival is to dive deeper into the unexplored cave without supplies or proper equipment in hopes of finding another exit.
The plot follows a predictable, repetitive storyline for nearly all two hours of the film. Although the acting is passable, the dialogue is so pitiful that the actors almost seem to recoil when they deliver their lines.
The characters all fall into square stereotypes. Frank serves as the wise, gruff mentor, George as Frank’s only friend who truly understands him, Josh as the rebelling son who hates his father, and Carl and his girlfriend as foolhardy wealthy people. The movie features countless scenes powered by heavy emotions and drama between characters. Yet, none of the characters are given, well … characters. The characters never show personalities or individual qualities of any sort. Their stereotypical roles define them from the beginning of the movie, and they never leave those lackluster roles. The audience never becomes invested in the characters. Thus, a scene where one character is holding the dying body of his comrade shouting, “Don’t go, George! Live! Fight on!” Instead of mourning the character’s death, an audience member finds themselves thinking, “Oh … his name was George that whole time. I don’t remember it even being mentioned before.” This lack of emotional depth in highly emotional scenes is compounded by the fact that dramatic death scenes occur at such a rapid rate.
The “true story” further becomes difficult to believe due to artsy attempts at symbolism. Frank and Josh have an estranged, troubled relationship. As they journey deeper into the cave, the also delve deeper into their complicated relationship. Not only is this cheesy and cliché, but no real reason is offered as to why they grow closer and forget past wrongs. It just happens without any legitimate justification.
The only reason anyone would want to watch this film would be its impressive visual effects. Unfortunately, such moments are few and far between. Executive producer James Cameron, director of “Avatar,” evidently did not teach Grierson the tricks of effective 3-D usage. The awe-inspiring terrain and natural beauty, often becomes blocked by images of an actor’s back or shoulder. Even when the audience begins to appreciate breathtaking scenery or an out-of-this-world cave, they are quickly slapped in the face by gaudy dialogue and the continuance of the boring story.
In the end, “Sanctum’s” biggest failure comes in the audience’s total lack of enjoyment. When audiences pay to watch a movie, which in this case is a hefty price because of the extra 3-D glasses cost, they expect to gain something from the experience. Whether they get laughs, inspiration, thrills, scares, drama, knowledge, or just giant explosions, it does not really matter, but they expect something. “Sanctum” provides none of these factors. It offers a queasy, uncomfortable feeling and a sense of wasted time and money. Watching bland, characterless people get stuck in a cave turns out to be about as much fun as actually being trapped in a cave. Grade: F+
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