Sanctum is the latest film on the “James Cameron presents” list. Other than being a producer, Cameron had nothing to do with this film. Sure, it uses some of the same 3D aspects he used on Avatar, but it’s far from it. It tried capitalizing on his name during theatrical release, but unfortunately it failed miserably. While the film isn’t anything amazing or special it’s not horrible. It has quite a few moments that aren’t all that spectacular, but compared to some of the other shit being released in Hollywood right now Sanctum isn’t all that bad.
The film centers on a group of divers that have found an undiscovered cave. They have stumbled upon one of the least accessible cave systems in the world and like most human beings they must quickly put their claim on it. Forget the fact that they are apparently trained divers who know several major safety precautions to follow when searching a cave, hell you can forget the fact that quite a few of these people are considered veterans of the cave searching “sport”, yet this group, for the most part tends to make every amateur mistake in the book. While that is one of my main gripes with the film you can defend the film for being riddled with these types of mistakes due to the general excitement of a new discovery. Sometimes when people find something that is undiscovered to the rest of the world they end up throwing caution out the window in hopes of being the first in the world.
People rush and make tons of silly mistakes, but you’d figure that if you’re in the underwater cave diving/searching business that you would probably have your head on a bit more straight. You’d think that they would be a little less careless, even if they are discovering something new, because wouldn’t you think that they are constantly discovering new caverns and tunnels deep under the ocean, especially when some of the more experienced divers are well known names amongst the community of divers?
Sanctum spends most of its running time playing off of the relationships between the characters. You have the classic case of dad and son where the dad wants the son to learn from him and take over what he has started and then you have the son who likes what he’s doing, but would rather being doing something else. The son is constantly disobeying his father and coming off a little too eager when they discover the cave. Now this relationship pans out exactly how you think it would. At the beginning of the film they kind of hate each other, but as the film progresses the son slowly starts to earn his father’s respect.
The rest of the relationships in the film come off as a little generic. You have your annoying characters that seem to be scared of the tiny tunnels and tough situations they must face throughout the cave and then you have your more realistic characters that show they are familiar with these types of cave situations, but at the same time they get moments that go beyond them and let out a little anger/fear.
The films main premise is that a massive storm has ended up trapping our characters in this under water cave and they must find a way out before it fills up with water and takes them all down to hell. It’s a decent story that could have been told a lot better. Some things really work in the film, like the R rating which gives it a more realistic feel to it and the relationship between the father and his son, but at the same time the film tends to get dragged down into its own Sanctum due to the cliché moments and the all too familiar storyline.
The Blu-ray release of Sanctum is exactly how the film is, decent. The picture is clear and detailed at times, but it often comes off as something that should look much better, considering the underwater nature of it all. The blacks are sometimes muffled and the colors don’t have that general “pop” that most Blu-ray releases have. What makes matters worse is the actual underwater scenes aren’t all that great. Usually Blu-ray films take advantage of those types of scenes and really manage to shine, but Sanctum stays true to its source and comes off a little murky.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track featured on the disc is much better than the picture transfer. For the most part the film consists of lots of water noises and that transfers well onto the disc. The front and back speakers get the most of that crisp and clear sound, but the middle speaker tend to sound a little dry, which is sort of disappointing for this release. A lot of times underwater films or movies that take place in a closed area can take advantage of the sound by releasing something that really submerges the viewer, and that sort of happens here, but the lack of sound coming from the middle channel keeps the track from reaching better status. While Sanctum‘s audio track is quite good, it never reaches amazing.
The special features on this disc include the following:
Audio Commentary: This features the director, a co-writer/producer and one of the actors as they talk about their experiences with the film. It’s quite serviceable for a fan of the film, but can come off as a little boring for the rest of the crowd. It kind of sucks that James Cameron wasn’t able to provide himself for this commentary, seeing as how his name is all over the film and he is yet to show his face or voice for that matter.
Sanctum: The Real Story (HD, 47 minutes): This 47 minute documentary is actually quite nice. It consists of three sections that all focus on how they made this film compared to the true events that inspired it and what ended up being of the final cut. It’s sort of refreshing seeing this type of behind-the-scenes documentary in addition to the commentary track on such a smaller film.
Nullarbor Dreaming (SD, 45 minutes): This is another interesting feature that is about one of the producers of this film and his own caving adventure that went wrong. The 22 year old doc shows how the producer and his teams lives were threatened during a cave-in while exploring the Pannikin Plain Cave in Australia.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 9 minutes): About seven scenes that were cut from the film, nothing too spectacular worth mentioning.
My Scenes Bookmarking
Overall, Sanctum is a middle of the road film that has its benefits, but it also has several flaws. It’s not that innovative and it really doesn’t take advantage of the Cameron name that it so boldly displays on the cover. As for the Blu-ray release of the film, it ends up with a decent picture transfer that is true to its source, but nothing that makes the picture jump off of the screen. The audio track on the other hand is quite crisp and detailed when it comes to the water scenes, but manages to lack any sort of connecting sound from the middle speaker. The film comes packed with a decent amount of bonus features that should please any fan. A digital copy of the film rounds out the special features. I wouldn’t suggest buying this unless you have seen the film and enjoyed it enough, otherwise stick to renting this film as it is worth a viewing, but probably not a re-watch.
Movie – 7/10
Video – 6/10
Audio – 8/10
Special Features – 6/10
Click here to purchase Sanctum from Amazon.com