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Sanctum fails to trump Avatar's effects

By Anthony Lauriello     2/3/11 6:00pm

Sanctum, like Transformers, is one of those movies that would have been far improved if someone took out all the people and dialogue of the film. While the unknown Alistair Greirson (Kodoka) directed the film, you would not know it with executive producer James Cameron's name all over the promotional material. While this is an obvious ploy to link Sanctum with award-winning Avatar's technological superiority, the tasteless acting and plot made the film subpar.Sanctum's plot concerns a group of people who get trapped in the largest unexplored underwater cave in the world in Papua New Guinea. The leader of the expedition, Frank, (played by Richard Roxburgh, Van Helsing) first attempts to direct the group out of the cave by following it deeper to the ocean, but he not only has to contend with nature but also the irksome emotional problems of everyone else. His son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield, Broken Hill), just wants Daddy to love him. Billionaire Carl (Ioan Grufford, Fantastic Four) believes he is far more experienced than he actually is, while his girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson, Where the Wild Things Are) will not stop crying. Last but not least, "Crazy George" (Dan Wylie, Chopper) is Frank's volatile assistant. The rest of the movie consists of spelunking in increasingly dark places. It did not take long for me to start wanting every character to die a horrible and gruesome death, and luckily, many of my wishes were realized.

The filming of the movie is striking, with gorgeous, vast shots of caves. Sadly, the film was 3-D, and although it was well done and used the same cameras from Avatar, it detracted from the movie as a whole, especially when there were subtitles. Still, the scenes of stone cathedrals actually gave me the desire to go spelunking, although not with any of the characters of the film. Greirson also did a great job using lighting to inspire the feelings of true darkness underground.

While the on-location filming (everything was shot on the Gold Coast of Australia) inspired awe, the insipid acting and plot only inspired annoyance. Roxburgh delivered a solid, although not stellar, performance. The same could not be said of the other actors; especially horrible were Grufford and Wakefield, who should limit their performances to daytime cable. In their defense, the actors did not have a script to work with: No strength of acting could make lines like "What can go wrong in a cave?" sound riveting. The combination of poor acting and script creates truly painful father-son bonding moments that are the

film's nadir.

Sanctum serves as an exemplar of what happens when Hollywood focuses on cheap gimmicks and special effects instead of quality writing and acting. Sanctum might be cool to look at, but in the end it is entirely forgettable.

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