Sanctum – Review

Sanctum 3D (2011) 

Directed by Alister Grierson. Starring Richard RoxburghIoan GruffuddRhys Wakefield.

I don’t think this film really deserves a proper analysis nor a proper review, mainly because I don’t think anyone involved must have taken it too seriously, so why should I? I am however surprised to find James Cameron‘s name attached to this pretty average (actually below average) effort. Doesn’t he have any shame to advertise this film with his name so big on the poster? Well, on a second though, considering that this is the guy who shouted at the 1997 Oscars “I’m the King of the World!!”, you should probably scrap my previous question! We know the answer.

Sanctum in the end is just a pretty pointless exercise in 3D: yes, the 3D cinematography works very well: the director was obviously very keen to make sure every single shot in the film was composed for it: there’s always something in the foreground or in the background (or even both) to give the right sense of prospective, whether it’s a plant, or a piece of rock or some water dripping between the audience and the actors. I must say that is possibly the only redeeming feature of this film: I suspect once the movie is out on DVD or BluRay (in 2D) is going to be even duller! (and before you ask, no, I’m NOT suggesting that you watch this in a cinema, but if you really must, then yes, the 3D cinema is the only way you can possibly digest it).

Obviously if you go and watch a film like this, you certainly don’t go for the characters, or the script, you just go for the action and the thrill of the adventure. But as all know, there’s no point in creating any action scene if you don’t really care about any of the characters on the screen! And in “Sanctum” it’s really hard to care for anyone (except maybe for the kid, who’s the only half decent actor, and given the material he’s given, he does actually a pretty good job). All characters are so annoying, one-dimensional, uninteresting and they behave so badly that I ended up really hating them and actually waiting for them to die as quickly as possible!

I mean, with all those producers attached to this project, why didn’t anyone at any point say “ehm… excuse me, should we try to get our audience to actually like these people?”. I guess not, especially because some of the producers are also behind the writing… if we can call it “writing”

I must confess some of them were also so badly defined that when the first few started to die I wasn’t even quite sure which ones they were… (but then again, I had a long day at work, please forgive me).

The script is so weak that makes even the dialogue in Cameron’s Avatar sound “deep and clever”. This is one of those films where they actually do say lines like “It’s just caving, what could possibly go wrong?”, “I’ll see you on the other side”, “remember, trust the cave”, “this cave is not going to have me!” and “down here I can hold a mirror in front of myself and see who I really am” and other rubbish like that. And the problem is that they take themselves very seriously tool

Between one clichés after another and a whole series of scenes full of exposition, the awful characters move about in one the most predictable story I’ve seen since the 80s. There’s no prize at the end for guessing who’s the one who’ll survive.

The film is also quite badly paced: at 109 minutes it feels even longer. Even that “action scene” where everyone gets trapped at the beginning feels long and boring.

But the most amazing thing for a film like this, is the absolute lack of any sense of claustrophobia. I mean, let’s face it, I knew this film was going to be rubbish, but at least I thought “well, it’s a mindless action flick and if caving worked on the low-budget The Descent“, on this multi-million dollar budget 3D extravaganza produced by Cameron it’s going to work even better”. How wrong I was!! The Descent might have had its faults too (mainly to do with the creatures living in the caves.. though, even those were pretty scary!) but my God, it was one of the most claustrophobic experiences I ever had to sit through (probably on the same level as Buried). In this one there was none of that. The reason is probably a mixture of the wrong camera angles, the wrong choice of cuts in the editing and most importantly an ever-present bombastic musical score that felt it had to spell everything out for you and killed any sense of enclosure and claustrophobia by drowning all the other sound effects which could have been so effective in creating more tension: the echo, for example, the heavy breathing, the noise of the rocks underneath the feet. All this was missing and replaced by music all the way through the film.

In other words, a pretty good disappointment, even on a movie popcorn level. Go and watch the Descent instead.


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3 Responses to Sanctum – Review

  1. fmiller0801 says:

    Good review. The only redeeming factor was the 3D … and maybe Ioan Gruffudd’s wildly (unintentional) hilarious performance.

  2. Pingback: Sanctum – Review (via moviegeekblog) | The Calculable

  3. Your review is well written and entertaining! Probably more so than the movie itself. I had heard to only watch Sanctum for the cinematography. Thanks for the confirmation. Unfortunately, to your point, cinematography alone does not a great film make. You confirmed my suspicions in speaking to the characters and their lack of development. We’ll see it on the sci-fi or discovery channel soon enough!

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