It's no secret that James Cameron (Avatar, Terminator 2) pisses me off. I think he's technically proficient but a lousy filmmaker when it comes to heart, soul and well...story and dialogue. He didn't direct this though; he was the Executive Producer. You can still tell that he got his tentacles on Sanctum though. The first act of this movie is so bad that it made me think I was watching Sharktopus vs. Giant Cave Squid or something on the Syfy Channel. The dialogue was just as bad as the acting. Shocking when you consider that one of the stars of Sanctum is Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four, W.) who is a somewhat respected actor in Hollywood and has produced decent performances before. He shares the spotlight...or lack-there-of in this movie about a cave...with Richard Roxburgh who is WAY different than his most famous role as the pompous Duke in Moulin Rogue and his son, played by unknown Australian Rhys Wakefield. These three, as well as others, are trapped in a giant cave that has been flooded by a hurricane. This is essentially my worst nightmare shown to me in 3D...claustrophobia and drowning. Once the characters are awkwardly introduced to us, awful cliche backstories are laid out, and lines are embarrassingly recited; the rain finally starts to fall. Once this happens and the cave floods, the rest of the film is pretty good. It's suspenseful and full of palpable tension. It's possible that I'm more susceptible to it because it preys on my two biggest anxieties for death. But what really impressed me about the film is that Australian director Alister Grierson shot the whole thing in 3D and the end result is utterly spectacular. It might be one of the best films to utilize 3D I've ever seen. Plus it's refreshing to see a 3D film come out that's made for adults. Make no mistake that Sanctum is a tad brutal at times. One scene in particular was so graphic that it caused shrieking in the theater from some of the more faint-hearted viewers. However, just like it began, Sanctum ends with a thud. The finale of the film has "James Cameron" written all over it. The same cheeseball that came up with "I'm the king of the world" and the Avatar mineral "Unobtanium," probably also ruined an ending that could have been less Hollywood and more satisfying just to squelch any feelings of bleakness in an audience. Sanctum as a whole is a decent film that won't disappoint. It's a throwback to the natural disaster movies that show man vs. wild but it still feels like a James Cameron sandwich - the middle is good but the ends are boring and they stink. What makes the middle of the film good is the absence of what makes the beginning and end bad...dialogue.
Sanctum (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C-