Based on a real life, near death caving experience, Sanctum is a thriller that squeezes claustrophobic audiences into tight, dark spaces, and forces all viewers to imagine and evaluate their personal fortitude if put in a precarious situation.
Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh), a professional cave diver compared to Jacques Cousteau and Neil Armstrong, is on a caving/cave-diving expedition with his highly trained team and his mercurial son Josh (Rhys Wakefield). Exploring the Esaala Caves in Papua New Guinea, the team has to traverse thousands of meters of virgin caves in order to ultimately find a connection to the sea. The eccentric financier, Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), with experience sky diving, caving, and cave diving, stalag-might have a problem with an imminent typhoon that threatens the expedition. The team is in over their heads when Mother Nature expedites the timeline; and they must navigate an underwater labyrinth in order to survive.
Similar to a real surfer watching Point Break, a rock climber watching Cliffhanger, or a skydiver watching...Point Break, there are plenty of technicalities to nitpick. The point, however, is entertainment, not a documentary. While utterly predictable during most moments, the movie nonetheless whitens knuckles and squeezes air from lungs. Beautifully rendered and lit, the cinematography had to naturally extend a little creative license in order to capture some of the brilliant underwater scenes. Particularly thrilling were the wide-angle cave diving shots and the crystal clear caverns. If pristine, unexplored worlds, alien to the average human eye were intended, then kudos are warranted.
While I enjoyed the script (regardless of predictability), the dialogue was weak at times. The worst moment was during a particularly harrowing moment, when water was flooding a portion of the cave system, young Josh declares to his father, "The cave is flooding." Department of Redundancy Department calling. The lines not withstanding, the emotional stress on the key players is appropriate but tired. Of course the father and son butt heads. Yep, the son transforms during the film and accepts responsibility. Does someone make an honorable sacrifice to aid the team? Guaranteed. I suppose some spokes are necessary for the wheel.
Ultimately I enjoyed Sanctum. As a scuba diver the underwater scenes excited me, but I'm quite sure avid cave divers won't be using in for PR purposes.