Taking The Plunge With Sanctum

Taking The Plunge With Sanctum

Static Mass Rating: 2/5

Release date: February 4th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 109 minutes

Director: Alister Grierson

Cast: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Christopher Baker, Allison Cratchley, John Garvin, Sean Dennehy

“What could possibly go wrong diving in caves?” one of Sanctum’s characters flippantly asks.

There are lots of opportunities for that to happen in this story. Sanctum centres on a group of divers exploring the world’s largest and most remote cave system in the South Pacific when out of nowhere, a storm suddenly breaks.

Veteran diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh), his teenage son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) and the rest of the team are forced to go deeper into the caves after their exit is sealed off. As the water rises, the only way out is down as they manoeuvre their way through previously unexplored routes in a desperate attempt to find their way back to the surface.


While everyone in the team idolises Frank for his dedication to cave diving, Josh resents him for not being a proper father. We know there will be a moment of resolved conflicts and the obligatory bonding between father and son, making Sanctum a cliché ridden story from the get-go.

Despite its 3D attraction, the characters are bland, flat and unmoving with lines like “This cave’s not going to beat me!” There also seems to be a running joke throughout the movie with its numerous “butt” references. Josh at one point pulls down his pants to show the team another place no human has ever been before. In another scene, someone cracks (pardon the pun) a joke about Frank being so tight that when he farts only dogs can hear it.

There are moments in the movie which could have been developed into subplots giving the story a much higher value, such as the presence of the aborigine at the beginning who seems to have known there was a storm coming. This is forgotten about later on, which is a great shame.


Although produced by James Cameron and filmed using the Cameron-Pace Fusion camera system developed for Avatar (2009), Sanctum comes nowhere close to the magic of those underwater scenes in The Abyss (1989), Titanic (1997) or documentaries such as Aliens Of The Deep (2005) and Ghosts Of The Abyss (2003).

There’s a significant lack of stunning visuals, underwater life and generally anything else which might have benefited from being shot in 3D. Overall, Sanctum was a damp experience where a lot of things went wrong.

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