“What could possibly go wrong cave diving?” Yes, screenwriters John Garvin and Andrew Wight actually employ that piece of dialogue early on in the 3-D disaster movie Sanctum and, regrettably, it proves to be one of the more witty lines in the movie. Yeah, the script is that lazy but there’s no question that the visuals employed by Alister Grierson in this spelunking nightmare more than make up for the weak dialogue.
As produced by James Cameron, this fact-based film is a showcase for the 3-D format and it’s utilized better here than in most movies. It plays an integral part in driving home how spectacular the film’s locale is as well as how terrifying the character’s predicament becomes. In exploring the Esa Ala Cave System in South America, Frank (Richard Roxburgh) doesn’t suffer fools lightly, whether they be Josh (Rhys Wakefield), his estranged son, Carl (Ioan Grufford), the self-serving billionaire financing the expedition or his headstrong girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson). But that’s the hand he’s dealt when a killer storm wipes out their surface base camp. Time is not on their side as the rain from the monsoon is quickly filling the caves where they’re trapped.
Their only option is to go down farther to find a passage to the Atlantic Ocean. The film kicks into high gear at that point. Tight squeezes aplenty as well as a dwindling supply of oxygen and frayed nerves plague these survivors. They have to not only contend with their environment but with each other as well. It’s fitting that the most intriguing character other than Frank (Roxburgh’s Ahab-like performance is engaging) are the underwater caves. The 3-D format underscores the system’s depths as well as its claustrophobic bends. The drops seem endless and the walls feel tighter than in a traditional 2-D film and it’s one of the few times when paying a couple of extra bucks for those plastic glasses seems worth it. Had the script been as deep as the visuals, Sanctum would be worth falling for.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at email@example.com.