Review: “Sanctum” an Unholy Disappointment

If you’re to have any hope of enjoying “Sanctum,” it’s important to go in knowing that it’s not really a thriller or an action/adventure film. It is essentially a haunted house/horror film, in which the bodies drop in an impressive variety of ways.

The film stars Ioan Gruffudd as Carl, a billionaire playboy who is funding an expedition to explore an underground river in Papua New Guinea. Carl’s a jerk, a blowhard, the kind of guy who tells his team leader, Frank (Richard Roxbugh), “You’re ass is so tight, when you fart only dogs hear it.”

The script, such as it is, was written by Andrew Wight, who's been producing dozens of documentaries over the years about the outdoors and the watery depths. But he’s never before written a story or characters, both of which are dearly lacking here.

Like Carl, most everyone in the film is a macho, reckless, self-absorbed tool—even the women. And the threat to life is so constant, it become numbing. It’s like America being perpetually at Threat Level Orange—after a while you get “alertness fatigue.”

With James Cameron serving as executive producer, one might reasonably assume that director Alister Grierson would make use of all the magnificent toys his boss has developed over the years for filming aquatic epics. But, though there are some beautiful shots of “St Jude’s Cathedral,” they are few and far between. Rather than take the time to gaze in wonder, the film is too concerned with putting you on the edge of your seat or killing someone.

And because the film is mostly rushing water and panicked divers, the IMAX 3D feels wasted. Instead of giving you a great spectacle, the 3D serves to mostly induce motion sickness and claustrophobia. Who knows, maybe that sounds like fun to you…

With no real story or anyone to root for, “Sanctum” devolves into a guessing game: Who will survive this joyless, unimaginative exercise in death? It’s not too hard to guess.

"Sanctum" opens Feb. 4, click here for a complete list of theaters where it can be seen in IMAX 3D

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