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Thursday, February 10, 2011


Richard Roxburgh searches for the point of the film...

The most depressing thing about Sanctum is that, quite literally, it's pointless. And, being a film produced by James Cameron, it's also the most disheartening. But, his involvement was minimal: it flows like a Cameron film, the characters are Cameron-esque characters that speak Cameron-esque dialog, but... it's more like another director doing an impression of a Cameron film. There is no heart, there is no movie magic, just a poor man's version of The Descent, with bad 3D. And no emotional involvement. 

More after the cut -- 

It's the ideal date movie - the tension is an excuse to grab onto your loved one, and the lack of anything to pay attention to is an excuse to fool around. You're not going to miss anything. And if you do miss something, you could always blame it on the bad lighting and shoddy art direction. We can barely see any of the action anyway. 

I don't want this review to wind up being about The Descent, but... well, here it is. 

Two films about cave diving, and all that could possibly go wrong - The Descent is more of a traditional horror film, and Sanctum is more of a thriller, but the two go hand in hand with each other. But, Sanctum winds up being more like Vertical Limit than anything else. And that's one way you can spot a truly bad movie: when it tries to be like a great movie, but can't help being like something completely different. It's the ineptitude of the director Alister Grierson that stunts the film's growth from the opening scene (which shares so much structure with Jurassic Park, it's insane). 

I can get past the weak writing, because the name "James Cameron" is tagged onto the film. There are only a couple of Cameron films I really don't enjoy. But, he's only a producer, so I can only get so far past it. With films where we are supposed to fear for a character's life, it helps if the script and director can get us to feel for the characters first, and get us to value their lives. That's the problem with most modern horror films - there is little to no emotional involvement. And if you can't get us to want your character to live, then your film has already died. 

A team of cave divers, complete with feuding father and son, and a sleazy financier, and his ridiculously inexperienced wife, get trapped in one of the largest underwater cave systems on Earth. The idea is to explore the cave to the other side. Don't ask why. The film won't tell us. What we do know is that the father has nothing else to live for but the caves. What we also know is, pretty much just by looking at the characters, who is going to die, and in what order. 

Films about people trapped in enclosed spaces have to get the audience to fight to the end with them. I was fighting to get to the end, but mostly so the characters could get out of the way and I could stop looking at the time. 

I would talk about the performances, but I think I'll wait until the film is reedited with something other than the rehearsals. 

Go see The Roommate instead.