Beware the marketing campaign on this movie about cave diving in Papua, New Guinea. The ads make it look like something James Cameron wrote and directed right after Avatar. He didn’t. Cameron’s title as executive producer sort of comes to down to Sanctum using the same 3D equipment Cameron did on Avatar.
The director of Sanctum is Alister Grierson and he and screenwriters John Garvin and Andrew Wight have the instincts of hack filmmakers trying to sell us knockoff goods. The underwater cavers of Papua are indeed one of the last unexplored places on the globe. But Wight and his Aussie crew shot on sets and exteriors in Queensland, Australia. And sometimes the sets look like, well, Styrofoam. So do the actors. Richard Roxburgh overacts shamelessly as Frank, the great white adventurer leading a team through the underwater caverns. Rhys Wakefield plays Josh, Frank’s teenage son who never gets enough attention and love from daddy. Want more clich—s? There’s Carl the moneyman played by the usually reliable Ioan Gruffudd and the babe-in-distress played by Alice Parkinson.
Peter Travers reviews Sanctum in his weekly video series, “At the Movies With Peter Travers.”
A storm whips these cardboard figures into a soggy frenzy. Screenwriter Wight reportedly led a similar expedition, but everyone survived. Sanctum tries to kill off as many characters as it can, presumably to create excitement. I was just grateful it shut them up. Dialogue like this needs silencing. There are a few scary moments when the characters have to squeeze through underwater passages. Maybe that’s why a better title for Sanctum would be Scrotum. But the movie ultimately reveals itself as a pretender with no balls. Creatively, it’s all wet.