Tuesday, February 08, 2011

SANCTUM - High-tech Effects, Low Class Narrative

SANCTUM (adventure thriller)
Cast: Richard Roxburgh, Alice Parkinson, Rhys Wakefield, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker, Allison Cratchley and Sean Dennehy
Director: Alister Grierson
Screenplay: John Garvin and Andrew Wight
Time: 103 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Rhys Wakefield and Richard Roxburgh in SANCTUM

PREAMBLE: With its wide post-Avatar publicity, many people would think that Sanctum is solely the work of movie-making maverick James Cameron. Bummer: Sanctum is directed by Alister Grierson, an Aussie whose main body of work was a 2006 B-grade feature called Kokoda. But we should not blame Grierson if Sanctum turns out like another B-movie cloaked in state-of-the-art 3D technology.

The screenplay by John Garvin and Andrew Wight is so heavily-laden with cliches, inane dialogue and stereotype characters that the movie threatens to sink into the depths that was The Abyss (which was directed by Cameron).

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: The movie is loosely based on an experience of Wight who was trapped in a cave with 14 other people for two days. Of course, the details have been amped up to fit the movie experience. Sanctum is about the struggle of five people who are trapped by a flood deep beneath New Guinea's Esa-ala caves while exploring deep underwater pockets and trenches.

They are master cave explorer Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh); his estranged 17-year-old son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield); and his longtime partner, George (Dan Wyllie). The others are wealthy adventurer funding the exploration, Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd), and his mountain climber girlfriend, Victoria (Alice Parkinson). Interpersonal conflicts, of which there are many, become secondary to finding an escape route before rising waters cut off any chance of cheating death.

HITS & MISSES: Basically the main attractions of the movie are the breath-taking scenery and landscapes (of the caves in South Australia) and the special effects that make the Man-vs-Nature escape attempts nail-biting experiences. As long as Grierson keeps the action fast-paced and wet, the film is entertaining enough. The problem is with the characters and character development. No attempt is made to flesh out the characters - and so we don't really care whether they survive or drown.

I have no complaints about the cast. I am no fan of Roxburgh's acting but here he obviously makes a good effort to make the father-son relationship look palpable and credible. Dan Wyllie stands out as the wisecracking Crazy George, getting to deliver some of the film's better lines. As for the 3D, I think the movie would have worked just as well in standard 2D format.

THE LOWDOWN: High-tech effects, low intellect narrative.


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