It’s funny that with all the decent movies being ruined by 3D conversions, along comes a film with wondrous 3D that’s ruined by… being a not so great film.

Maybe that’s unfair. Sanctum does have its moments. There are some wonderfully tense scenes and some incredible stunts.Sanctum The only problem is whenever people talk. Director Alister Grierson already has Kokoda to his name – that well-made yet slightly unnerving war film – but with Sanctum he seems to be taking a step backward, directorially speaking.

A lot of criticism has been made of the supposed cardboard cutout characters, but this didn’t really bother me. I’ve seen many a fun b-grade film that’s successfully navigated a less than perfect script, however it’s the delivery of the lines that really jars. There’s a lot of yelling in Sanctum. Heaps, in fact. I appreciate the fact that torrents of water rushing through caves would necessitate raised voices, but after a while it becomes rather tiresome.

The plot concerns a group of cave divers who become trapped deep underground in Papua New Guinea. With a tropical storm raging topside and a tonne of water rushing into the caves, the group are forced deeper into the Earth to try and find a way out. If this sounds similar to The Cave and The Descent, that’s because it is. Except there aren’t any monsters. The group of spelunkers are pretty much at each other’s throats from the beginning, and the whole life and death issue doesn’t help matters.

Rhys Wakefield (of The Black Balloon) is strong in the lead role of Josh, and surely Hollywood will take notice. Richard Roxburgh plays his dad, Frank, and surprisingly delivers one of the least impressive performances in the film. Roxburgh constantly cranks his delivery up to 11, snarling and yelling for much of the film’s running time. One does acclimatise to Frank as the film goes on, but it’s a significant stumbling block. Ioan Gruffudd plays an American millionaire playboy type, though he’s clearly in Fantastic Four rather than Amazing Grace mode.

As I said at the beginning, Sanctum’s 3D is very nice indeed. It employs the same techniques used in Avatar, thanks to James Cameron’s involvement as producer. Whilst obviously the budget isn’t quite as grand as the one that delivered Pandora, the underwater landscape portrayed here can be quite stunning.

The film’s pace never slows and the dangers rear their head with unceasing regularity. The film in fact could have done with a smaller body count and a more reserved approach. That being said, the flaws do smooth out as we head towards the climax, and the final scenes are actually quite moving.

Sanctum is a well-made thriller/adventure film with some decent tension and beautiful 3D work. It’s a pity the dramatic moments leave more than a little to be desired.

Rating: 2.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 16th February 2011
Hoopla Factor: 3.0 stars

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