Sanctum: Delving Deep into Treacherous Waters

Do you think you could guess what one of my favourite outlets is? Well it’s usually a restaurant of some sort, or something to do with food, but one of my most favourite shops not involving nourishment is CEX.

CEX: like a physical representation of the Electronics eBay section. If you’re looking for a piece of hardware or a entertainments disc for an affordable price, CEX is probably your safest bet. With its ever-changing stock, from all the video games of the console rainbow to that one TV show you need the boxset to, you will find what you need one of those CEX.

One thing I would watch out for is what you call it. What seemed like a harmless purchase last time I went turned into an awkward unrest as I was told curtly that the apparently correct pronunciation was phonetically expressed as “C-E-X”.  I was then sentenced to a grueling silence as I waited for the present to be retrieved. I now call it “Charlie Echo X-ray” to not offend others and to be perfectly clear.

I’m usually in town every Saturday morning for a laid-back guitar lesson. After my half-an-hour escape, a trip to CEX is ritual for me. I can tune out with a selection of Green Day, The Offspring and Now! albums while I browse through the varied selection of treats on offer.

One of the best things about CEX is the relatively cheap pricing of… well, everything. While things like Blu-Ray and recent material are obviously higher in price,  the second-hand selection see prices drop as low as 25p, which is good for a large franchise. I really wouldn’t recommend 25p films though.

On one Saturday morning browse at the start of the year, I picked up an odd trilogy of films, consisting of James Cameron’s Sanctum, along with Rush Hour and Phonebooth for under £4. While I had already seen Phonebooth, I loved Colin Farrell’s performance in the tense thriller of a man stuck in a phone booth in New York by a sniper and how could I turn down a 50p deal on this little cherub of a film? To date, I haven’t watched Rush Hour, which was the fate Sanctum succumbed to for a while, collecting dust in the pile of out-of-sight and unloved films…

However, as fate turns out, Sanctum and I were brought together one faithful night, as my brother and mother watched BBC’s interpretation of Jamaica Inn, an adaption from the novel of the same name. I had not watched the previous episode of this TV series, so I decided to reach into the pile of awaiting movies and take Sanctum to give it the showing it was bought to give.

Unfortunately, I was already annoyed to start as our old, faithful sofa was thrown away and I was left with a comfortable-looking yet surprisingly hard footstool. The film starting to play in Spanish with Korean subtitles didn’t help either. Oh, how I wish I made that up. With a slightly teenage-grunge mood settling in, I delved into the chasms of Sanctum.

In this diving-adventure-gone-wrong movie, five divers and one not-so-much diver are trapped in a slowly flooding cave, where the only way of reaching the surface is travelling through unexplored caves to sea.

The film has a lengthy opening, hurling different characters at the viewer like the entrance of Paddington station at rush hour. And guess what? They soon turn into forgotten and obsolete people, washed away like the flood that traps the five actual characters.

I don’t count the others as real characters, as I only hazily remember them merging into a broken record to remind juvenile Josh, played by Rhys Wakefield, that fatherly Frank, played by Richard Roxburgh, is angry at him for some forgettable reason. It was probably about diving. All this movie is about diving. I recommend this film to learner divers, as it really does educate you on the dangers of diving (and caving). Everyone else? I would give this a miss.

The film suffers from all kinds of clichés. Characters are picked off one by one, there’s that one person who betrays the group (granted, it’s understandable in the life-or-death situation they’re in), we have the cliché that I like to call the ‘Anaphoric Saviour Item’: the aforementioned item or piece of information that ultimately saves the hero from certain doom. Repetitive scenes, the father-son duo; the list goes on.

I feel sad for the writers when we finally get to the caves. The characters do have potential  . They each have their strengths and flaws, and are well-balanced with each-other to show a variety of characters. There is the seasoned-caver, who takes on the leaders role. That would be dad. His son is the one trying to rekindle his relationship with Daddy. There is the sacrificing friend, the betrayer, the not-so-much diver and the loyal, stereotypical foreign guy being used as a pivot for the plot (not sure if that’s a good point).

However, the actors really do squander that potential. The performances seemed wooden and dull to me. At the ending scenes, where we have a “heart-wrenching” moment and the climax, I literally paused the film, and asked myself: “Do I really care about these people?” In this film, the answer was no. I felt indifferent to the ending and actually felt a little more sorrow for the potential wasted in these caves.

The caves, I would have to say, were pretty cool… when they weren’t CGI. The more physical, tight, narrow caves gave a feeling of confinement and claustrophobia. Unfortunately, in Cameron-esque manner, we are treated to the wonders of CGI. I have seen other reviews praising the CGI in this movie, but I personally this might be just jumping on the band-wagon of Jurassic Park and other James Cameron masterpieces. The CGI in this film was flawed. I remember one guy at the start of the movie showing a computer-model of the caves to Josh and thinking that it almost looked the same when they descended. The physical stuff was great, but the CGI caves were lacking.

I do have other points I’d like to raise: why did they have a random tribal chieftain who seemed to carry such great importance, not carry any importance at all? Isn’t it a little too convenient that all the communication to the bottom caves is cut off? How did Cameron miss all of these pitfalls? I have ran out of time (and word count), but one thing is clear. This movie could have been a hit, but it ended up sinking like the Titanic… the actual ship, not the movie.

All done! Just a quick note to say thank you for reading my lengthy review. I have been at Cardiff today for a meal, a shop and a quick film as well. Next week will probably be about the new film Hercules before I switch to another kind of review. I realised the review I wanted to put up today didn’t really work as a first review. I had to finish this one, which was half-complete at the time I found it today. This review hasn’t been fully proof-read, so I apologise for any silly mistakes I’ve made. However, I hope you enjoy.

Feel free to leave a comment. This week I will be trying to learn more about blogging, as to get a feel for it more.

Anyway, I must now retire. Tomorrow – well, today is Saturday, which means it’s almost time for Charlie Echo X-ray! See you all next week.