This movie should have been called "The Cavern," because when you tell me a movie is about a cave I expect something more claustrophobic than what we have in this 2005 film. You say the word "cave" in early 2006 and it impossible not to think about the mining disasters that have been in the news. You look at the cave in "The Cave" and it looks a lot more like Carlsbad Cavern, except with the Mississippi River flowing through it or something (the biggest surprise in the film is how much underwater photograph there is for a move that takes place in a cave and/or cavern). Then again, you watch "The Cave," and it does not take you long to trace its lineage back to "Alien," except this time it is in a cave(rn) underground instead of a ship in space.
That suggests there is not a lot of originality here, which is true, but that is not the biggest crime. Once you accept the idea that this is a cavern and not merely a cave, then the unique location should have been a bigger part of the thrills and chills (in other words, think "Cliffhanger" inside the mountain instead of on top of it, except, of course, for the part that was inside the mountain; but I digress). Thirty years ago while one party was investigating a cave in Romania, they discovered evidence of an ancient church of some sort and then something bad happened to the explorers. We then jump forward to the there and now as a new team of explorers enters the cave and we know that most of them (at least) are going to die.
Jack (Cole Hauser) is the leader of the pack, so he is the best bet to survive longest. Dr. Nikolai (Marcel Iures) has to be around at least long enough to provide the necessary exposition and history, but once he does that his odds dip significantly. Top Buchnana (Morris Chestnut) oozes confidence, but you know what they say about pride and in the cave(rn) the fall could be a long way down. Jack's brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian) is along and he is clearly going to be the guy in great danger at some point, while Charlie (Piper Perabo) would be the obvious damsel in distress. Briggs (Rick Ravanello) and Strode (Kiernan Darcy-Smith) do the heavy lifting for the group and when one of them dies the question will be if you can remember which guy was which. There is a scientist named Kathryn (Lena Headey), who can carry some of the necessary exposition but who is an unnecessary female since the other actress is more recognizable. Then there is Kim (Daniel Dae Kim, who I knew could speak English because I watched him on "Angel") who takes the video of all the exploring and dying.
They all go off spelunking in the cave, discover some strange animals of the likes no human has ever seen before (except for maybe the ones who died 30 years earlier), and then they become trapped, TRAPPED I tell you. They think their problem is that they have to get out of the cave(rn) because they will run out of food and water around the time somebody back in the world knows the party is overdue, but really it is that they have to get out of the cave(rn) because otherwise they are going to be ripped to shreds. However, the great irony here is that the best parts of this film are when nothing is happening because instead of looking at the people we do not care about or the things that are doing the killing, we can appreciate the cave(rn). Too bad it was just a set.