Film Reviews

SANCTUM

By • Feb 5th, 2011 •

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Visually stunning and the 3D is fantastic. Easy to see twice to understand all the tech stuff.

SANCTUM begins with a statement that colors the whole film. It is this: “Based on true events.” Well, based on some true events.

The writer-producer of the film, Andrew Wright, was cave-diving in Western Australia’s Nullabor Plain, when an unexpected, violent storm hit the area and trapped Wright and a group of 14 other divers underground. The good news? No one suggested eating the weakest members to stay alive.*

Quickly the drama is established. The highly sophisticated team is being led by legendary Frank Maguire (Richard Roxburgh), exhibiting an over-50 virility and an “I am that I am” complex. But his self-regard is well-founded. Of course, his carefree teenage son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) is a highly reluctant member of the group. He constantly grouses about not knowing his father yet he is an experienced climber and diver. Who did he grow up climbing and diving with? His mother?

The team has been in the cave for several weeks and are waiting for Josh to bring down some much-needed supplies. Now that the team is in place with a skilled support staff and technical equipment that would make NASA’s Moon mission envious, in parachutes billionaire funder Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd) with his Everest Summit girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson).

Hurley wants the unexplored cave route through Esa’ala to the ocean coast named after him. As Hurley states so eloquently: no human being has ever been there before. Let’s look at this adventure the way Hurley does.

As of 2009 about 4,100 individuals have successfully climbed to the top of Mt. Everest loaded down with sherpas lugging equipment, the Internet, the route lined with rope, gourmet dinners and oxygen tanks. There is a strip club at Base Camp. Summiting is not so special anymore. In fact, Apa Sherpa, Climbing Leader of Eco Everest Expedition 2010 broke his own world record and reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Mt. Everest, for the 20th time at 08:34am on 22 May 2010!

I’ve spent a few days at Carlsbad Caverns National Park exploring the caves. Granted, it’s nothing to compare to Esa’ala (I don’t know how to swim and have severe claustrophobia), but one thing drove me crazy about SANCTUM, based on my extremely limited 2-day tourist experience. Caves are cold. Very, very cold. So why are all the men in SANCTUM dressed like Burt Reynolds in DELIVERANCE? Maguire and his men are all in sleeveless PVC jackets!

You know it’s going to get ugly. People will die. Especially when there is only one re-breather left. I did a Google search so you don’t have to: “A rebreather is a type of breathing set that provides a breathing gas containing oxygen and recycled exhaled gas. This recycling reduces the volume of breathing gas used, making a rebreather lighter and more compact than an open-circuit breathing set for the same duration in environments where humans cannot safely breathe from the atmosphere.”

The team has to swim and crawl through tiny spaces with heavy loads on their backs. Maguire will be blamed for not crying. Hurley will demand to live. After all, he’s a billionaire with a dream.

Touted as “Produced by James Cameron” SANCTUM delivers the Cameron goods. SANCTUM uses Cameron’s Pace Fusion 3D Camera System, not that lousy “3D” we have recently been subjected to (CLASH OF THE TITANS is one example). Written by John Garvin and director Alistair Grierson, all the standard elements are in place – the father-son crisis, the tears, the loss, the tiny spaces, the ABYSS deaths and the awesome 3D!

I’m seeing it again because it is scary, the setting of the story original, and a production marvel. Director Alister Grierson has done an admirable job and it could not have been an easy assignment.

* The 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than a month last year made a “pact of silence” about their mysterious first 17 days before rescuers made contact and offered the hope of escape. There are secrets that will probably come out with book and movie deals. Rumors of “fist fights” and a collapse of unity got “very bad”. A Spanish newspaper reported that five of the 33 miners, employees of a different subcontractor, had their own separatist camp until the subcontractor, after contact had been established, ordered the men to integrate.

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