Combustible Celluloid
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With: Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker, Nicole Downs, Allison Cratchley, Cramer Cain, Andrew Hansen, John Garvin, Sean Dennehy, Nea Diap
Written by: John Garvin, Andrew Wight, based on a story by Andrew Wight
Directed by: Alister Grierson
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and disturbing images
Running Time: 109
Date: 02/03/2011

Sanctum (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Lonely Are the Caves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Produced, but not written or directed, by James Cameron, Sanctum feels for all the world like it was sculpted, shaped and finalized by the "King of the World." It includes his style of exposition -- a 3D computer demonstration of the entire cave system -- and his brand of half-drawn character types, as well as an obsession with spectacle and the technical. And indeed, the cave photography here is impressive.

A group of cave divers prepare to explore one of the world's biggest caves, perhaps becoming the first humans to discover a new underwater passage to the sea. Among them are the expert caver Frank (Richard Roxburgh), his estranged son Josh (Rhys Wakefield), and Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), the weekend-adventurer millionaire paying for the whole thing. Unfortunately a typhoon hits harder and faster than expected, stranding five explorers inside, and slowly filling the caves with water; now they have no choice but to find their secret passage, or die trying.

Most of the suspense depends on a real, natural human fear of drowning; Buried and 127 Hours played on similar fears to much better effect, but with much stronger characters and performances. Sometimes it's possible, as with Cameron's Avatar, to overlook a movie's lack of human elements and enjoy the hugeness of the event, and the pure rollercoaster ride, but Sanctum feels too little, too late.

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