Sanctum 3D (2011)

Trapped in Papua New Guinea’s uncharted Esa-ala cave system by a freak cyclone, Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) and his team of divers are left with no alternative but to continue their explorations in an attempt to escape before their supplies run out. At the mercy of hypothermia, decompression sickness and each other, Frank nevertheless finds the time to make peace with his climber son (Rhys Wakefield) and show his employer (Ioan Gruffud) up for the suit that he is.

Let me put something out there: I think James Cameron’s Avatar was robbed of the more prestigious awards back in 2010. Sure Hurt Locker was alright, but really it was just your bog standard war film sans the exciting bits. Avatar, on the other hand, was a beautifully crafted and  genuinely innovative piece of landmark filmmaking. You may argue that is was “Smurf Gully in space” or whatever, but who actually cares? I’ve seen the same action movie repeated under a whole host of guises, and watched them receive praise and distinction for breaking ground that had already been trudged into smulch. It may have been “Dances With Na’vi” but, you know what, that was more than good enough for me.

While we’re in confessional, I must also declare by adoration for 3D. While I’m the first to admit that it can be done badly (*cough* Clash of the Titans *cough*), I for one find it an effective and immersive tool which genuinely adds something to my cinematic experience. Avatar, The Hole in 3D, How to Train Your Dragon, Alice in Wonderland and Tangled were all movies that took my breath away, and the extra dimension had a lot to do with it.

At this junction, with stereoscopic gimmicky evidently proving more important to me than incontrovertible originality, I feel it is time to admit that I really enjoyed Sanctum. Boasting James Cameron as producer, it might not be seminal, or Oscar worthy or even particularly original, but it is exponentially more enjoyable than anything else that came out this month. In all honesty I have had my fill of Academy Award nominees, and Sanctum is the perfect alternative to stuttering royalty and psychotic ballet dancers.

That is not to say, however, that Sanctum is devoid of great acting, gorgeous cinematography or competent direction. The second feature from Canberra-born director Alister Grierson, Sactum 3D boasts more talent than it has any claim to. A banterful atmosphere greets audiences as the cast do their best with unashamedly stock characters, performing adequately until the special effects team are required erase their pulses. Roxburgh, Wakefield and Gruffudd deliver a trio of commendable performances, their characters given the most to work with and introducing stakes where there might easily have been none at all.

It is in the visceral experience of cave diving with the characters that Sanctum comes to life; as the pristine image tours the caves both above and below water, taking full advantage of the Pandoran forests and gaping crevasses to indulge the viewer’s optic flow. While the effect might not be quite as claustrophobic as The Descent, it comes satisfyingly close. Although Mark Kermode may take issue with the miniaturisation of characters and environments caused by 3D, for me it only adds to the film’s effectiveness.

Although you may have a roughly correct idea of who will die and in which order, Sanctum 3D also boasts some compelling performances, a surprisingly jovial script and a truly awe inspiring use of 3D. You’ve seen what Danny Boyle can do with an unrelenting rock face, it’s time to see what Alister Grierson can do with an entire cave system; you’ve been inspired, it’s time to be entertained.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to Sanctum 3D (2011)

  1. Pingback: February 2011 – Do you know the “f” word? « popcornaddict

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