Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 02/15/11 23:50:22

"Don’t look for any depth"
3 stars (Average)

There is very little, if anything at all, in Sanctum that is an insight or indication of Australian director Alister Grierson’s filmmaking style. Grierson’s Hollywood debut film in fact is thoroughly steeped in the best and worst traits of its presenter and producer James Cameron. Sanctum marries Cameron’s long-lasting fixation with the water world (Titanic, The Abyss, Aliens Of The Deep) to his new obsession, 3D (Avatar). Unfortunately, it doesn’t come divorced from his trademark clunky dialogues or awkwardly clichéd character development.

Cameron’s by-the-book reliance on time-tested templates has been his strength, despite its artistic demerits. Be it Titanic or Avatar, Cameron has always refrained from letting even the slightest of clever scripts to come in the way of his audaciously imaginative visual razzle-dazzle and technical wizardry. His stories therefore comprise of hackneyed plots that are babyishly easy to navigate through. The plot of Sanctum is no different. A group of people get trapped while exploring deep underwater caves. This motley, yet conveniently assembled, group includes a father-son duo that obviously has a strained relationship, a rich adventurer whose inexperience is at odds with the veteran cave-exploring leader of the pack, and an obligatory girl to provide a break from all the testosterone and be the invested core of the film. Besides, it’s always cinematically advisable to have a female member in the cast should a film involve any sort of getting wet in the waters!

Richard Roxburgh (of Moulin Rouge! fame) plays master cave-explorer Frank McGuire. McGuire is modeled after the film’s writer Andrew Wight whose real-life near-death experience this narrative hyperbolically recounts. Funded by multi-millionaire Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd aka Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four films), McGuire leads Hurley and his mountain-climbing girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson) on an expedition to the cavernous Esa’ala Caves down under. Also accompanying are McGuire’s long-time maverick cave-exploring partner George (Dan Wyllie) and McGuire’s estranged teenaged son Josh (Rhys Wakefield). Before long, and before the clumsy setting up of the characters causes you to give up on the film, the group is faced by a sudden onslaught of nature of the precipitative kind. The rest of the film, thankfully, involves the survival struggle of these mere mortals against an environmental wrath that threatens to drown them in the underwater caves.

Cameron has already wowed with the translucently clear underwater world he presented in the then-dismissed, now-cult film The Abyss. The shimmering pools and the cathedral- like caverns are a sight to behold in Sanctum… a world we are knocked out with before it literally knocks out the humans trespassing it! Also, quite unlike the films of its ilk like The Descent, Sanctum doesn’t have scary humanoid creatures to create horror. The thrills here are all natural, thanks to some brilliant production and sound design.

Cameron’s employment and execution of 3D once again separates him as the man from the other wannabe boys. Using the same technology of 3D-fusion that was specially developed for Avatar, Sanctum’s is a world privileged with immersive depths that provide a 3D experience bereft of the ills of discolouration or dim-lighting that affect afterthought conversions. One only wished there was more depth to the characters and the storyline as well.

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