MOVIE: Sanctum (2011)

My expectations for this movie were low — I was pretty much just after a 2-hour episode of I Shouldn’t Be Alive and a chance to stare lustfully at Ioan Gruffud’s delicious  nose for a while.  So, it says a lot that even going in with little in the way of hope, I still emerged from this stinker disappointed. When are the people who make movies going to realize that scripts matter?  This movie had all the elements it needed to be really entertaining — a great setting and a decent story (about a group of people trapped in a huge, underwater cave system in Australia, forced to work together to try to find their way out with minimal gear). But instead of focusing on the adventure elements, they spent way, WAY too much time on stupid, trite, unoriginal interpersonal relationship nonsense.  Beeyuck, I say.

If the whole movie had been like the last ten minutes, my pals and I agreed, where the survival and escape parts finally became the focus, it could’ve been pretty good.  Alternatively, if the characters had been interesting people with actual depth, instead of merely being oft-recycled characters from 8000 other films just like this one, it also could’ve been pretty good.  Or at least pretty better, anyway.

Instead, our four main characters were these extremely familiar yahoos:

Cranky Team Leader:  Extremely focused cave diving expert who abandoned his wife and son years ago when he realized the only thing he truly cared about was work.  Can’t express emotions and has long since given up on trying.  Likes to quote Coleridge incessantly, I’m assuming because the writer read “Kubla Khan” in high school and has been waiting ever since to impress chicks by working it into a script.  (Shut up, Coleridge.)

Team Leader’s Teenage Son:  Dragged along on this expedition by his father in a half-hearted attempt to un-irreconcilable their differences.  Predictably snotty and bitter about it, though I should note he was the only character I liked who made it to the final act.  As it turns out, Rhys Wakefield is pretty adorable;  I wouldn’t mind seeing him again in something.  Something . . . say . . . good, perhaps.

Rich American Prick:  Ioan Gruffud’s character (forced to speak in a brash American accent, which did not help matters much), who is funding the expedition.  He’s just arrived at the site as the film opens, primarily, it seems, to show off his huge, costly project to his new girlfriend.  He’s an arrogant jerk.  He also, coincidentally, has all the worst lines in the film (my friends and I were snorting back laughs every time Ioan opened his mouth, poor fella).

Also, for the record, I never want to hear Horatio Hornblower use the word “clusterfuck” ever again.  It just comes out all wrong.  Ioan, next time make them let you substitute “absolute bollocks” instead, ya dig?  Obliged.

Rich American’s Stupid Girlfriend:  She’s actually an experienced mountain climber, which is why it was so surprising when she refused to take any of the advice the divers kept giving her.  You’d think an experienced-anything would know better.  It starts with her refusing to put on a wet suit despite the obvious risk of hypothermia (the water is a mile deep in a CAVE where it gets no SUN, lady!), and it only goes downhill from there.   I couldn’t wait for her to die, to be honest.  I’m sure that makes me sound like a terrible person, but, hey, just wait until you meet her.

These guys all get trapped in the cave system together when a hurricane hits land above them and a boulder falls into their only known exit.  They spend most of the next 90 minutes bickering and swimming around, boring boring boring, and it’s not until the final ten minutes, when we’re down to just the father and son, that the movie finally hits its stride.  In the meantime, everything else goes exactly as you’d expect — the father and son clash constantly then finally bond when it becomes clear to the son that his father cares if he lives or dies, the Rich American argues all the time and acts cocky and is later revealed to be a total coward, all the nice people get killed early on and in truly horrible ways, etc. etc.

And then, ugh, there was the 3D, which was absolutely pointless.  It added nothing of interest whatsoever visually (not that there was much to work with — boringest underground cave system EVER), which surprised me because it was my understanding they shot the movie in 3D, as opposed to adding the effects later, and so one would assume they were thinking about cool things to do with it the whole time.  Alas, not.  Also, James Cameron was the producer, a man who clearly knows a lot about how to use 3D effectively (Avatar was a bad movie, yes, but the 3D effects totally blew my mind).   So, like, what the hell, team?  If you have the option of seeing this in 2D instead, you should take it.  Save yourself the extra dough and spend it on margaritas afterward so you and your own movie-watching pals can get sloshed and make fun of Ioan Gruffud all evening.  Ach, if only we’d known!

Then again, I should probably mention that it’s entirely possible this movie was a lot better than I’m giving it credit for.  Because, in all honesty, I spent a ridiculous amount of time focusing on Cranky Team Leader’s face, ignoring everything else, trying to figure out why Stellan Skarsgaard looked so weird.  Turns out, Stellan Skarsgaard looked so weird because he was actually Richard Roxburgh.  Go figure.

That plus the fact we were waited on by Poor Man’s Philip Seymour Hoffman at the concessions stand left me all dopplegangerly disoriented, which I’m sure helped matters very little.

Phew.  Whadda stinker.  I will say, though, that I had a great time watching this movie — there’s really nothing quite as entertaining as seeing a bad film with a couple of bad-film loving friends.  Let’s do that again soon, ladies.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Action, Adventure
Cast:  Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker, Nicole Downs, Allison Cratchley, John Garvin


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4 Responses to “MOVIE: Sanctum (2011)”

  1. RogerBW Says:

    Yeah, once upon a time Cameron knew better (Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, T2), but now he’s all about the gimmicks even when he’s just one of six producers.

  2. alisaj29 Says:

    So basically this was Descent but with out the excitement of watching Ioan being eaten by a cave monster.

  3. Melinda Says:

    Yeah, see, they lost me as a viewer as soon as they mentioned “the director who brought you Avatar.” Well, okay, that and trying to make a tense movie out of spelunking when it was *obvious* there were no monsters eating people. Because, helloooooo! Caves = inexpressible, soul-crushing darkness = MONSTERS!!! Or at least a psychopath. Was there a psychopath?

  4. Ilene Serge Says:

    Ilene Serge…

    […]MOVIE: Sanctum (2011) «[…]…

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