Newly out on video, SANCTUM was the brainchild of producer James Cameron who decided he wanted to use his 3D cameras and AVATAR technology to do a thriller in the deep underwater cave system of Papua, New Guinea.
Long an extreme sportsman, Cameron chose a relatively new director and assembled a mostly unknown Australian cast for what’s best described as a survivalist thriller.
The exploration team, headed by a hard-nosed adventurer, Frank (Richard Roxburgh), has to figure out a way to save themselves when an unexpected typhoon floods the cave system. Is there a way out to the other side of the island? Do we care?
The pedestrian script by first-time screenwriter, Andrew Wight, is a by-the-numbers affair that could come from a night of screenwriting lessons at the Learning Annex. Frank has difficulties relating to his teenaged son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield, looking like a young Michael York), as well as to his wealthy investor, Carl (Ioan Gruffudd). But the typhoon flood brings father and son together as dad must make hard choices as one team member after another gets killed in the caverns.
The dialogue is what you might expect from a James Cameron movie, though thanks to the flooding water, there’s more yelling in its than the sinking scenes of the TITANIC. The cast makes a heroic effort for the last two thirds of the movie as people get swept away to the agonized reaction shots of the teenaged son who begins to understand why his dad is such a hardass.
Unfortunately for Cameron and all his technology, SANCTUM looks too much like other cave thrillers of recent years – like THE CAVE, or THE DESCENT. There’s even an underwater cave scene in the recent (and much more enjoyable) remake of PIRANHA! There is some beautiful cinematography of caves and spelunking, but SANCTUM falls short in the all important need to tell a good story well.
For the official SANCTUM website, CLICK HERE.