Sanctum (2011) Directed by Alister Grierson
Recommend this product?
"To see what no human eyes have ever discovered before."
Carl (Ioan Gruffudd) is a billionaire adventurer making his way back to his latest project with his girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson). They are met on Papua, New Guinea, by Josh (Rhys Wakefield), son of expedition leader Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh). Josh is a personable kid, but it is obvious he has quite a few beefs with his perfectionist dad, not the least of which is he is never asked if he wants to go on these expeditions into the middle of nowhere. Then they enter their target, Esa-Ala Caves, the most extensive cave system in the world. Its entrance is a sinkhole shaft that could accommodate a helicopter, easily. They are seeking to map it all the way to the sea.
Down in the cave they meet the eclectic mix of whack-jobs that get off of this sort of thing...Luko (Cramer Cain), Liz (Nicole Downs) and Crazy George (Dan Wyllie). Judes (Allison Cratchley) is Frank's dive partner, and on the money's way down, they are continuing the exploration. We get to see why Frank is such a perfectionist hard@$$; while exploring a dead end dive, they detect a side passage with a current; though it is ‘tight as Nun's Nasty', the wriggle through, though Judes gets stuck for a bit. They find a vast cathedral (St. Judes' Cathedral) with an air bell that indicates the cave probably goes on.
But Judes' air hose was damaged when she was stuck, and even with Frank trying to buddy breath with his full face mask rig, she panics, and drowns. This is why Frank is so unforgiving; the caves are even more so. Any mistake could get someone killed.
Then the rains come, and communications with the surface break down before they can warn the people below. Further, that storm they were expecting in a few days, has upgraded to a cyclone. And it is pouring.
What follows is a tense drama about survival, man against nature. Remember, all caves are formed by the erosion of water, and they flood. Imagine an ant trying to climb up the inside of a fire hose, while it's on. And when a boulder shifts, blocking the passage, they are left with one option; find the outlet to the sea.
There are a slew of really good (and really bad) movies where the caves harbor hidden populations of giant bugs, bats, or blind cave cannibals. This movie shows us how unnecessary that is; a cave taken for itself can be just as lethal as the bat boy and his clan.
Nor do you need to manufacture monsters when panicky people are about the most dangerous things on earth. This movie is a real lottery; at the beginning, pick who survives. See if you are right.
They did some things absolutely right. I really was impressed with Rhys Wakefield's performance. He went from a kid, happy go lucky to sulky in seconds, to a strong, capable, formidable man. A lot has to do with posture and carriage, but the illusion is remarkable. I predict great things from this young man.
The caving scenes were great, and that's a good thing, considering how much of the movie they comprise. Pay attention when they show the computer with the 3D image of the map! It gives you a sense of how far down they are, and how far they have to go.
But one huge complaint I have about it is the 3D. It is not the retrofitted 3D (which I hate) but the good kind, filmed in. And it has the James Cameron stamp of approval, right? Wrong. The 3D was effective in a few places; particularly when the waterfalls were spilling right at you, but often there were cave formations in the foreground that were out of focus, because the actors were in the middleground. It ruined the effect. Further, the movie has dim enough lighting as it is without the glasses adding their Corey Hart dimness to the proceedings. This is one where I wish they also offered it in 2D, because I would flatly recommend you see it there.
All that said, it is a gripping drama on several levels; man versus nature, man versus man, Son versus Father, and man versus himself. It is gripping, scary and satisfying by turns. It will have you squirming in your seat. And even with no nudity, little cussing, and not much violence, yes, this movie does deserve to be rated R.
Movie Mood: Action Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.