Movie Review - Sanctum (**1/2)

SANCTUM.  109 mins.  R.  Directed by Alister Grierson.  Written by John Garvin & Andrew Wight.

Make no mistake, Sanctum is a proud B-movie that follows in the footsteps of the similarly plotted The Cave, The Descent, Daylight, and countless others.  Executive produced by none other than James Cameron, but directed by the less-impressive Alister Grierson, Sanctum was shot and conceived in 3D - and on that level, particularly all the underwater sequences (those oxygen bubbles drift right toward you!), it's a fun watch.  But I'm sure I am not the first to point out that the acting and story are less than 2D.  They may not even be 1D, if there is such a thing.

Actually, I don't have a problem with the story so much.  These silly B-movies excel at putting their stupid characters in one crazy sequence after another, where one-by-one the weak are picked off and the strong survive.  Most audience members know that going in.  Sanctum doesn't reinvent the wheel in that regard and it doesn't try to.  Cocky cave explorers get more than they bargained for after a cyclone starts flooding the cave tunnels.  The motley crew of survivors now have to find another way out, before time runs out on them.  That's it, and I'm fine with that.  Yes, the dialogue is hammy and cliched, but in the hands of proper actors, that wouldn't necessary be a problem.
But the acting.  My god.  The actors start off okay, but continue to get worse as the story requires more out of them.  Most of the cast are unknown Australians, but I mean Ioan Gruffold has been in King Arthur and the Fantastic Four films - he's been around the Hollywood block before, but, from here, it looks like he's never acted a day in his life.  As an American asshole financing the cave exploration, you're supposed to dislike him to a certain degree - but your hate for Gruffold here has nothing to do with his character.  He is already a strong contender for Worst Actor of the year.  The supporting players are not much better.  I just watched SyFy's Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (couldn't resist the Debbie Gibson vs. Tiffany catfight) last weekend, and I swear, the acting in that cheapo flick is better than anything in Sanctum.  Only Moulin Rouge's Richard Roxburgh as the bad-ass cave-diving expert manages anything resembling a real performance.
So yes, a mixed bag.  If the movie were set entirely underwater - this would be a ringing endorsement.  It's there where the director stages some thrilling sequences, the photography is beautiful, and an uncomfortable, growing claustrophobia sets in.  But when you let these actors breathe and deliver the inane dialogue, Sanctum grows tiring.  Cool underwater 3D can only get you so far.

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