Don’t be fooled by the trailer for Sanctum, which prominently displays James Cameron’s name.  He wasn’t involved creatively. He’s just a producer–understandably so, since the movie is largely about scuba diving, one of his passions.

With no (ok, maybe one) well-known actors and no recognizable creative team, it’s easy to just kind of overlook this movie.  Hopefully people won’t though. Just because there’s nobody famous involved, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time…depending on what you’re looking for.

The acting is mediocre at best, with the standout (in a bad way) being the aforementioned possibly-known actor.  Ioan Gruffudd, best known as Mr. Fantastic in the Fantastic Four, is awful.  I’m not sure why, but everything he says feels rushed and perfunctory.  Since he’s one of the 3 leads, this is problematic.  The other two leads are a tough-guy expedition leader, who’s fine, and his son, who’s fine but a bit whiny and melodramatic at times.  The dialogue doesn’t do them any favors either.  A lot of the lines are obvious, or cheesy.

So what’s left?  Well, the visuals.  Unlike most modern action movies, there’s not much CGI in this at all.  Much of it was shot on location, in real underwater caves, with real scuba diving and rock climbing.  The sets were extraordinary.   While I think I knew what was a set and what was a real cave, I wasn’t totally sure, which speaks to the quality of the locations.  There are real stunts, real feats accomplished by the divers and climbers, and a string of tense situations.  I’m not saying it’s ALL real–of course, some of it is special effects.  But they’re not artificial robots or mutants.   It’s a very back-to-basics adventure movie.

With astonishing scenery, and a few actions scenes so tense I either squirmed or held my breath momentarily, there’s enough here to recommend.  It also may have helped that I’m a casual scuba diver and have done some rock climbing before.  So I got a thrill of recognition from some of the jargon and equipment.  Your patience might be tested by the spotty dialogue and acting, but only you can know your tolerance for that.  For me, it was only a minor distraction between the awesomeness.

*I saw this in 3D, and it was very high-quality.  I still don’t think it’s necessary for many movies and wouldn’t recommend paying the extra money if your budget is tight, but as far as 3D goes, this is top tier.

Ryan S. Davis

I love board games, thrill rides and travel. I'm happy to watch and review all kinds of movies, from mainstream blockbusters to art house indies. As a Warner Bros. employee, I'm privileged with a glimpse of Hollywood many don't see, but my opinions here are my own and not representative of the company.

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