¨The only way out is down.¨
I know it is still early in the year to say this, but Sanctum is the frontrunner on my list for the worst movie of 2011 so far. Honestly, I can`t see any other movie topping this (at least one that I`ll watch). Sanctum could have worked a lot better if director Alister Grierson (who also directed Kokoda) would have made a documentary instead of an action/adventure flick. The visuals are stunning because we get to see one of the largest cave systems in the world: the South Pacific Esa-ala caves in New Guinea, and they are truly beautiful. It’s a unique place and one very few people have had the chance to experience, and Grierson would have done us all a favor if he just filmed a group of real life explorers entering the caves without all the make belief drama and one dimensional characters that were made up by writers Andrew Wight (an Australian underwater explorer) and John Gavin (another experienced diver who actually based one of the characters on himself in order to act in the movie). The dialogue in the film is horrendous, the characters are forgettable and really annoying, and the father-son issues that the movie deals with are just laughable. The film claims to be based on a true story, but I think the only true thing about it are the caves and the explorers, the rest is just all make belief. The most interesting character in Sanctum is the cave itself, but we have all these other annoying characters blocking the view and distracting us from the beauty of nature. The cave is relegated to just the background so we have to sit through this two hour film listening to these people ramble on and on making one bad decision after another in this doomed exploration.
Frank McGuire (played by Richard Roxburgh) is a master diver who specializes in exploring unexplored caves around the world. He`s been leading an expedition in the Esa-ala caves, the largest cave system on Earth, for the past several months. The caves are truly an underwater labyrinth and the divers still haven`t reached the bottom of it or have any idea as to how deep it goes. McGuire`s team is being financed by Carl Hurley (played by Ioan Gruffudd from the Fantastic Four), an adventurous man himself who has no problem parachuting into the caves. Carl decides to visit the Esa-ala caves along with his girlfriend, Victoria (Alice Parkinson), and see what new discoveries his team has made. In New Guinea, they are received by Josh (Rhys Wakefield), Frank`s 17 year old son, and he leads them to the caves were they catch up with the rest of the team. While the divers are exploring a new cave system they have recently discovered something goes wrong and one of them dies. McGuire was informed that a tropical storm was coming their way and that they needed to leave the caves as soon as possible, but the accident put them behind schedule and the team soon finds themselves trapped in the darkness of the cave after their exit is cut off in the flood. Now they will be forced to find a new way out, but in order to do so they will have to find an unknown escape route to the sea.
The film was marketed as a James Cameron picture, but he`s only the Executive Producer of Sanctum. I`m not a huge Cameron fan, but still this movie really puts a stain on all his great work. He should have at least hired a better writer for the script because the dialogue in this movie is awful. He was probably more concerned with the visual aspect which was quite remarkable, but he probably didn`t consider that the script would ruin the visuals. I really hated the way they dealt with the father-son issue between Frank and Josh. It felt too dramatic and didn`t work. I also had a problem with the acting. I didn`t like any of the characters or even cared for what happened to them. It`s a major problem in a thriller when we could care less if they survive or not because it takes away the emotion and suspense. Since the movie takes place almost entirely deep in the caves it also gets dark and dim after a while and the characters can`t do anything to brighten it either. All these factors put together contribute to make Sanctum the worst movie of the year so far in my opinion. I wouldn`t watch this movie again even if they pay me to do it. I love caves, but I wouldn`t want to get near one for a while, not out of fear, but because it would remind me of this painful movie.