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DVD Review: Sanctum

June 7, 2011

Sanctum – A Universal Pictures’ Release

DVD Release Date: June 7th, 2011

Rated 14A for disturbing content, violence and coarse language

Running time: 108 minutes

Alister Grierson (dir.)

John Garvin (screenplay)

Andrew Wight (screenplay & story)

David Hirschfelder (music)

Richard Roxburgh as Frank

Ioan Gruffudd as Carl

Rhys Wakefield as Josh

Alice Parkinson as Victoria

Our reviews below:


Sanctum DVD Review By John C.

* (out of 4)

At a research base in Papua New Guinea, Frank (Richard Roxburgh) and his teenage son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) are leading a small group of divers in the exploration of an underwater cave system, hoping to shine a light where no man has ever been.  But when the cave floods and their exit is blocked by rushing water, they must work their way down to find a way out, before they all perish due to the perils at hand.

Under the executive production of James Cameron, at times we almost want to admire Sanctum for some of the impressive underwater cinematography.  But uninspired performances, a terrible script filled with laughable dialogue and a bizarre amount of assisted suicide make the overall tone of the film feel needlessly depressing and utterly pointless.  Sanctum ultimately sinks, despite trying to tell a seemingly suspenseful story.

The DVD includes commentary with Wakefield and co-writer/producer Andrew Wight, deleted scenes and a look at the more positive true story which vaguely inspired the film.


Sanctum DVD Review by Erin V.  

* (out of 4)

Inspired by a true story, Sanctum is about a group of cave-divers who get trapped in a storm-flooded cave and find their only hope of getting out to continue diving through the cave and hopefully find their way with the water to the ocean.

The story could have been told as an emotional one filled with suspense, but instead we are left cold with a poorly written script and bad acting.  I won’t spoil anything specific here other than to say don’t expect everyone to make it – and you’ll probably be taking bets on who might ‘bite the dust’ next.  Not to say that’s what I want from a movie – I would have much preferred to have been on the edge of my seat, feeling the claustrophobia of the trapped characters, and rooting for them along the way.  It sucks even more if you know the true story.


Sanctum DVD Review By Nicole

*1/2 (out of 4)

What is the point of Sanctum?  In this film, several scuba divers decide to explore an underground river in Papua New Guinea.  But a storm arises, trapping them in an underground cave.  Who, if any, will survive?  Quite frankly, the acting and script is so bad that one really doesn’t care.

Sanctum was advertised as being “inspired by true events.”  The real story was an inspirational account of the power of friendship, where everyone survived.  But the film is just a cheesy and occasionally gory mess, in which people die in subsequently ridiculous and highly creative ways.  If you want to see a good and ultimately uplifting spelunking thriller, then watch 127 Hours and skip Sanctum.


Sanctum DVD Review By Maureen

*1/2 (out of 4)

Billed as a thrilling underwater adventure based on true events, executive producer James Cameron’s Sanctum proves that sometimes fiction can be stranger than the truth.  When a group of divers led by Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) runs into trouble while exploring beautiful underwater caves the team, which includes Frank’s 17-year-old son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) have to do everything and anything they can to out race the tropical storm that traps them inside the labyrinth of caves.  The event becomes a dark exercise in the survival of the fittest.

Sanctum could have been an inspiring story about survival.  It also could have highlighted the magnificence of these underwater caves.  Instead we get 108 minutes of one dark tragedy after another.  With uninspired dialogue and performances, and not much in the way of interesting visuals, I can’t think of any reason to watch Sanctum.  Unless, of course, you’ll watch anything with James Cameron’s name on it.


Sanctum DVD Review By Tony

*1/2 (out of 4)

Sanctum is an Australian film about a group of explorers trapped in a South Pacific cave by a flash flood forcing them (with limited breathing apparatus of course) to try to escape underwater to the sea. Teenage Josh (Rhys Wakefield) would rather be climbing but has to spend summers with his obsessed caver father Frank (Richard Roxburgh) who is only functional underground. Frank’s financier Carl (Ioan Gruffudd) is also on the team along with others including a Pidgin-speaking Billy-Bob lookalike.

Despite some attractive images (originally in 3D) shot on equipment provided by “executive  producer” James Cameron and some suspense along the way, Sanctum suffers from characters that we don’t really care about going through a laughable script.  Moreover, the outcome of the film “inspired by” true events is way different from what actually happened.


Consensus: Despite some interesting underwater cinematography, Sanctum ultimately sinks with a bad screenplay, uninspired performances and an overall tone that often feels needlessly depressing.  *1/2 (Out of 4)

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