Caves and Shit

Tuesday February 1st 2011

What the world really needs is another James Cameron-produced diving movie, so thank the highest heavens for Sanctum, the latest in a long line of vanity fascinating projects from the grey-haired genius.

Telling the vaguely true story – in that people do actually go cave diving sometimes – of a group of Australian divers who become trapped in the world’s least accessible cave system, Sanctum shows us just how exciting cave diving can be in moderation, and just how mind-numblingly dull it is after 109 endlessly watery minutes.

The characters are passable. There’s:

  • Richard Roxburgh from M:i-2 as the stone faced, stubborn leader.
  • Dan Wyllie from Animal Kingdom as his wisecracking but loyal buddy.
  • Ioan Gruffudd from Fantastic Four as the selfish fame-seeker.
  • Somebody called Alice Parkinson as the token woman.
  • Russell Howard’s 17-year-old Australian doppelganger (see above) as our cocky but capable main protagonist.

Personally, I think the threat of drowning is one of the most powerful devices in a moviemaker’s arsenal, so extended underwater sequences do tend to get under my skin, however badly-acted and misconceived they are (and they really are here). But even within Cameron’s oeuvre, the innate horror of water is dealt with far more effectively in Titanic, which – as I’ve said before – is one of the greatest movies ever made.

That said, Sanctum is clearly a genuine passion project, and as indulgent as that can make it feel, it’s absolutely uncompromising in its depiction of ‘some blokes in a hole’. There is tedious but realistic technical detail, there is graphic but non-gratuitous bodily harm, and in a newly-tweeting Cameron’s own words:

Spoiler alert.