This fact-based suspense adventure boasts some high production values with James Cameron (Avatar) serving as an executive producer. Even if it's tone-deaf when it comes to plotting and characterization amid extensive attention to underwater cave systems in the wonder of the South Pacific.
Sanctum is being sold for its ability to utilize the 3D format to involve viewers in a direct, visceral way. In that way it succeeds as the premise espouses peril similar to more interesting and riveting "experience" pics like Touching The Void and the acclaimed, more recent 127 Hours.
Producer and scribe Andrew Wright (with quite a background in caves) has assisted Cameron in his documentaries like Ghosts of the Abyss with cutting-edge cameras here used for South Australia and Queensland passing for New Guinea's Esa-ala Caves.
A survivalist tale ensues with a tremendous tropical storm putting underwater cave divers on such a treacherous trek desperately delving to escape to the sea through a cavernous mouth.
The diving team is led by the highly driven Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh of Moulin Rouge! playing against type that doesn't do justice to his character actor prowess). Frank's estranged son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) and financial backer Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd of The Fantastic Four) are a part of a story of changing courses and getting to know those closest to you that is hardly authentic relative to the visual acuity to all stretches of the underwater and its landscapes. Perhaps the most sympathetic character who provides some emotional weight as the drama intensifies is Frank's confidante and partner, George, done by a fairly deft Dan Wyllie.
Director Alistair Grierson can't really elevate the mediocrity even with a persistent claustrophobic terror in a foray not as creative as something say from the horror genre like The Descent. Still, this unique collaboration with Cameron has a timely vividness to it as reports from South American have indicated of late.
Ultimately, with all the documentary-like realism, the elemental, stunted presentation cued by some sharp sound effects Sanctum is a souped-up snazzy cinematic trap that is probably worth avoiding. It may be more headache-inducing even with its stylish, depth-of-perception conviction through raging water, deadly terrain and eerie panic and apprehension.