Film Review: SANCTUM (2011)

Sanctum is an Australian film that tells the story of cave divers who get caught in a cave after a storm and fight for survival as they try and escape.

The posters for Sanctum have James Cameron’s name all over them, but don’t be fooled; he did not direct this film he simply produced it. This is director Alister Grierson’s second film (his first being Kokoda, a film set in the WWII, which is far superior to his latest effort), but he can’t pull off what Cameron is able to do with a limited script. Cameron’s Avatar has a terrible script but he managed to make it enjoyable, however he did have a much larger budget. Sanctum suffers from many problems, one of the major ones is that it looks extraordinarily cheap, looking and sounding like a Home and Away holiday special. Money has clearly been spent, for any film with copious amounts of water are expensive and also the sets look great, but the quality of the digital film looks like its made for television and so does the quality of the acting.

Everyone in the film overacts; Richard Roxburgh snarls and puts on a gruff voice to play a tough man, Ioan Gruffudd who can be so good puts on an American accent and sounds ridiculous and the rest of the cast do act like they are in a soap opera.

The biggest problem with the film is the lighting. The three scary things about cave diving is the claustrophobia, water and the darkness and the sets in this are way over lit. It takes away believability and any sense of danger. The film is over lit in order to allow it to be 3D, because what’s the use of 3D if you can’t see much. 3D doesn’t work and this film is another perfect example. The Descent is by no means a great film but you believe you are in a cave due to the darkness and the mood it creates. It draws you in while Sanctum jumps out at you and fails to do anything but irritate.

There are a few good things about the film. A few of the action scenes are quite exciting and there is one relatively touching scene. When characters die it is generally quite shocking but unfortunately you don’t care about them and in many cases you’re relieved that you won’t have to see them again.

Sanctum is not a good film and is further proof that 3D is all show and no substance, thank god James Cameron put his name to this, hopefully it will harm his 3D campaign.


Action, Drama | Australia, 2010 | 15 | 13th June 2011 (UK) | DVD | Universal Pictures | Dir: Alister Grierson |Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson