Rated R for language, some violence and disturbing images.
Sanctum was a beautifully filmed man vs. nature adventure that was hampered by a comical script and dialogue.
Carl is a rich industrialist who has a passion for exploring the underwater caves of the world. He has hired Frank, the world's foremost expert in cave exploring, to dive into the deepest cave anyone has ever seen in the South Pacific's Esa-ala Caves. Working with Frank is his son Josh who has never liked this world but continues to work with his dad. And Carl has brought along his girlfriend Victoria. A storm is approaching, meaning the crew has to get out of the caves quickly or they'll be trapped underground. But when one of the team members dies, all hell breaks loose and the time taken to deal with her costs them and they are stuck with no way out. With Frank leading the way, the group tries to find a way to escape, but one by one mother nature picks them off, until the four of them are the only ones who remain. The food supply is diminishing and without light, they'll never see their way around. Will they all survive to make it to the end? Or will they be buried alive?
When I left the theater, the very first comment I heard from someone was "That movie was like Battlefield Earth or Catwoman for me." I was a little shocked because while Sanctum wasn't a great film by any means, I wouldn't put it on par with some of the worst movies ever made. Yes, the acting and dialogue was cheesy - there was one line that took place during a rather serious point that has the audience in stitches because it was so absurd and out of place - but the photography and scenery was excellent. And since it was shot in 3D, the visuals stayed strong throughout. I'm not sure this has to been seen in 3D but it's definitely the kind of movie that needs to be seen on a big screen. The actors I suppose weren't bad, it's just that what they had to work with was... well, it wasn't much. I have to imagine the writers, director and of course, producer James Cameron, decided that this movie could make it entirely on the visuals and the story could be put into the background. I mean, it worked for Avatar right? Unfortunately, this is no Avatar. While the visuals were certainly impressive, they were all man-made and we were not taken to a CGI world beyond imagination. Though admittedly, some of what we saw in the cave was pretty amazing. If it wasn't for the months of preparation and the numerous of ways one could die, I'd consider a cave exploration trip. I suppose it's better than I can just pay a couple of bucks and watch it on a big screen. Or on my TV from my couch.
The movie starts off slowly, as you would expect, as we get to know the team members and figure out which ones will die and which ones will survive. Spoiler alert - there aren't a lot of survivors. Once the storm hits and the cave gets flooded, the movie does pick up steam. What I liked most about the film is that there wasn't really one bad person who was trying to sabotage the rest of the team (spoiler alert - at least until the end). And there were no underwater creatures trying to kill everyone. it was really a battle of man vs. nature, and nature is one tough bitch. As the crew started to trek through the unknown to find a way out, the action picks up and people start to die ugly deaths. Yes, there were some gruesome moments in the film, and they don't all happen to the expected. I bet if you took a snapshot of the crew at the beginning of the movie, most people wouldn't be able to correctly pick out the survivors. Of course the movie drops some massive hints along the way so it wasn't a complete surprise at the end. To some, the movie might drag towards the end, as you kind of just want them to either escape or die, but I felt the movie moved along pretty well. It's not horribly long and the 3D and the photography really captured my attention, so even the cheesiest of lines were OK. OK you're wondering what the line was so **spoiler alert** after Carl's girlfriend dies, Frank says they have to move on at which point Carl looks at him with all the seriousness in the world and says "Have you no decency sir?!" For some reason the Monopoly mascot came into my head because I think a line like that can only be said by a vaguely British person with a monocle. Throwing that into the middle of a life or death adventure felt really out of place and the crowd exploded with laughter.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked Sanctum. It was certainly poorly written, but visually it was stunning. If you're a fan of IMAX documentaries, you might get a kick out of the underwater caves. It has a good man vs. nature adventure streak in it and if you can put up with some cheesy dialogue, you'll enjoy the film.