Sanctum, Blu-ray (2011)
Director: Alister Grierson; Exec. Producer: James Cameron
Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson
Studio: Relativity/Universal61115334 [6/7/11] Blu-ray + Digital Copy (also avail. in 3D Blu-ray version)
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 2.0, Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: 3 commentary tracks: Director, Co-Writer & Producer Andrew Wight, Actor Rhys Wakefield; Deleted and extended scenes; “Sanctum: The Real Story” (in HD) = How It Began, Making the Movie, In the Aftermath; “Nullarbor Dreaming” (documentary on the true story); BD-Live 2.0; Pocket BLU; My movies; My scenes; uHear (replays missed portions of dialog); Digital copy
Length: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Using the same 3D cameras he used on Avatar, James Cameron has come up with another visually compelling (but not as good) 3D film. I’m not using a 3D display yet, so this review will be confined to the 2D version, which provides an impressive visual component as it is. The feature is based on a true happening – a cave exploration in the southern desert of Western Australia, during which a freak storm came up which buried the entrance, trapping most of the cavers in it for some days. The same cameraman on that expedition was responsible for all the underwater footage of this new production, and one of the extras is his complete documentary film. Cameron and his screen writer had both done caving on their own.
Cameron describes the film in the extras as basically a father & son story, which he had wanted to do for some time. But the setting is the world of the cave-divers, which adds the dangers of underwater diving to that of ordinary cave exploration, making it the most dangerous sport, in which hundreds have died. Their exploration party enters supposedly the world’s largest cavern – mostly unexplored – in a remote area of New Guinea. In addition to the son, who is at odds with his father – for whom caving is his entire life – there is a wealthy adventurer who finances the expedition, his girlfriend, assistants of the staff, and another female. The acting is nothing that will win any awards, but like most of Cameron’s efforts, the visual spectacle is the prime interest here rather than the acting. I was surprised to learn in the extras that most of the film was not shot in actual caves but on sets built in Australia, which were partially flooded. Most of it looks extremely believable. And there’s no cave monster here – it’s trying to be a documentary-style realistic feature.
A sudden unexpected storm blocks the entrance to the treacherous cavern, and it begins to flood from the huge volume of rain. The team is forced to go deeper and deeper into the unknown areas of the cave, seeking another way out, mostly underwater, before they are drowned. The powerful pressures of the water and their building panic works against most of the expedition members and the death toll mounts. At the heart of the suspenseful action is the question of what each person must do in order to survive when faced with sudden life and death decisions at every juncture.
— John Sunier