Sanctum review

Sanctum is a big-budget adventure film that follows a group of Australian cave divers as they struggle to escape an underground prison of nature’s doing.  It’s inspired by co-screenwriter Andrew Wight’s near-death diving experiences, but the film decides to go the way of Twister rather than 127 Hours.  The result is an intermittently exciting 3-D B-movie that exceeds at situation, but is low on character.

Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge!, Mission: Impossible II) gives it his all as expert diver/explorer Frank McGuire who is forced to take charge when a tropical storm cuts his expedition off from the surface world.  Frank’s team includes his estranged son Josh (Rhys Wakefield), billionaire financier Carl Hurley (played by Ioan Gruffudd aka Mr. Fantastic), and a bunch of other Australians who serve their purposes as cave fodder.  The characters never emerge as anything more than simple two-dimensional avatars as they move unsteadily between gripping sequences of suspense and almost laughable moments of melodrama.  The dialogue is often clunky and awkward as evidenced in the lines of a surprise villain and the trite distant-father/resentful-son relationship of its protagonists.

Films like Sanctum can ultimately be forgiven for script imperfections as long as they deliver what audiences have come to expect from this sort of entertainment.  And with that in mind, it mostly succeeds as it efficiently exploits both the underwater and spelunking sub-genres.  Characters swim through narrow underwater passages, dangle precariously off the sides of cliffs, and, in one of the film’s most evocative sequences, try to find tiny pockets of air in hopelessly flooded corridors.  A claustrophobic atmosphere is maintained throughout and at a breezy 109 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome.  The 3-D is top notch, no big surprise with James Cameron attached as Producer (Wight has worked on all of Cameron’s undersea film projects so that explains that).

You know what you’re getting into, watch accordingly.


Do a Twitter search for #sanctum and you’ll come across a TON of accounts that are obviously and unashamedly created for the sole use of promoting the film.  This may be old news to some, I’m sure this practice is old hat for the studios at this point, but what I find interesting are the minor details that the marketing department adds to make things feel legit.

Take the sexy, but faceless @megstertee:
“My name is Megan and i enjoy listening to random music and love watching random movies.”
The only movie she seems to love though is Sanctum, which is mentioned in over half of “her” 40 tweets.  The truly random thing are “her” other posts:
“Are you guys interested to #SOCCER?”
“uuuw I LOVE WWF :)”
I could go on…here’s my favorite of the Sanctum-related posts:
“Heyyy boys ! I want an extreme adventure 🙂 Who would like to take me to #Sanctum 3 D on Fri ???????”
The account has four followers so there are definitely a few takers.

@larrygivens, @redblanket05, @amy_morgaiiin, @markyK714, @catmcfar1, @j_langlyrox, @marshalldoctor, @redblanket04, @laur_lawless, @fancyjack, @ccarford714, @geezymichaels…there are literally hundreds of these fake accounts, many of them sharing the same text as their temporary users cut and paste their way across the Twittersphere.  Again, the practice is old news I’m sure, but if you have time to kill then its great fun going through their profiles for a behind-the-scenes look at modern movie marketing.

I did find a few legitimate accounts that are genuinely excited about the film (the minority, I assure you), including this one that has The Crow as their profile photo:

“OMG OMG OMG I wanna go see #Sanctum #IoanGruffud is in it #FTW”

I bet that’s the first time Ioan Gruffud has been hashtagged in joy.

It’s 12 hours after I posted this and all of the fake accounts listed above have been closed.  There are still plenty more to enjoy though.

Author: Eric Bresler

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.

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