Monday, August 25, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Sanctum (2011) **

R, 108 min.
Director: Alister Grierson
Writers: John Garson, Andrew Wight
Starring: Rhya Wakefield, Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker, Nicole Downs, Allison Crathcley

So “Sanctum” came out about a year after “Avatar” boasting James Cameron’s name all over it as an executive producer. I don’t really know what that means. It certainly doesn’t seem to mean that he came in and looked over the script or the editing process and offered his advice on how to make it better, because the distance between this movie and one written and directed by Cameron is as immense as the cavernous hole in which all the action of this movie takes place.

The movie is about a crew of cave divers, who are exploring “the last unexplored places on Earth.” They are mapping out a cave in the South Pacific. Never is an explanation of the benefits of this exercise ever offered beyond the fact that it may be the only unexplored place left o Earth.  It seems they should have very good reasons for mapping these caves since it is apparently a very dangerous thing to do. Not only does it involve deep diving gear, but also limited amounts of time and a typhoon that threatens to change the depth of the water at any moment.

The setting does provide a good deal of adventure, and I believe there was a great deal of potential for this material to work as a mild action thriller. It’s bogged down by needless clichés and little background on its subject area. In Cameron’s “Titanic”, he depicts a deep sea diving crew who take great care to inform the other characters and the audience of just what it is they’re doing and why. In “Sanctum” we get an animatic showing the mapped out areas of the cave much like the animatic of the Titanic’s unfortunate encounter with an iceberg in the earlier film. The difference is that the Titanic animatic actually explains something about the events of the evening. The animatic in “Sanctum” runs through the cave system so fast there is no sense of what is what or where anyone is. It explains nothing about what the dive crew is trying to accomplish beyond making incomprehensible animatics.

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