Sanctum

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Sanctum

Run time 106 minutes.
OK for children.

“Sanctum”

This is a movie that is truly made better by being made in 3D. Directed by Alister Grierson, several divers/spelunkers, including Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh), a master diver, his 17-year old son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield), Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd), who financed the expedition, Carl’s girlfriend, Victoria (Alice Parkinson), and an old friend of Richard’s, Crazy George (Dan Wyllie), are trapped in a huge underground cave by a flash flood. They can’t go out the way they came in, so they decide to try to find the way out by going deeper into the cave.

The film was shot on location in Queensland, Australia and in caves in South Australia. What sets this apart from a run of the mill survival adventure is the 3D photography, which captures the claustrophobia of the caves and the narrow passageways that must be navigated much more realistically than a two dimensional film would. But, to be clear, this won’t be a problem for claustrophobics, so if you have a weakness for it, you needn’t avoid this film.

The story is derived from the 1988 experience of famous spelunker Andrew Wight, who led an expedition to dive and explore a remote system of caves under Australia’s Nullarbor Plain, when his team of 15 was trapped underground by a sudden storm. While everyone survived, Wight developed this film based on the ordeal.

To make it more cinematic, his longtime colleague, James Cameron of Avatar (2009) and Titanic (1997), and writer John Garvin wrote a coming-of-age story about the difficult relationship between father Frank and son Josh and how it’s affected by the life-or-death struggle to survive.

What’s impressive is that many of the stunts were done by the actors themselves. They all had to learn how to scuba dive and rock climb. While professional divers did the most difficult stunts, the others were done by the actors, including buddy breathing with a flooded full face mask (accomplished by Roxburgh and Allison Cratchley).

Production designer Nicholas McCallum did award quality work in creating the cave environment in which the entire film takes place, including underground rivers, waterfalls, stalactites and huge caverns. Duplicating them on a small scale required exceptional talent.

The only thing controversial about the film is that it seems to countenance mercy-killing and assisted suicide. While few might argue with the killings as they are portrayed, they still present moral dilemmas that the film really doesn’t address, but that’s probably real life instead of reel life, because there isn’t much time for thought when the occasion for such a decision arises.

Cameron spent years developing the technology needed to film Avatar and this is the first film since Avatar in which it has been utilized. Cameron says, “It’s a system I was thrilled to use on Avatar and which Andrew utilized on Sanctum, the Cameron/Pace Fusion 3D Camera System — a stereoscopic HD camera system that delivers such incredible results that we can deliver flawless IMAX projection in 3D.”

While the story examines what happens to the human character when unexpectedly thrust into a disastrous situation, it’s the cinematography and recreation of the environment that make this film worth seeing.

The Mechanic

Run time 92 minutes.
Not for children.

Jason Statham in “The Mechanic.”

Fifty year old director Simon West recommended Black Hawk Down (2001) to Jerry Bruckheimer with an eye to directing it himself. But then he turned it down to do Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). Now he takes on a remake of Charles Bronson’s original of the same name. Directed by Michael Winner, Bronson’s film had a much better cast (Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn and Jill Ireland) and wasn’t nearly as graphically violent.

In addition to the papier-mâché acting (Jason Statham and Ben Foster play the roles of Bronson and Vincent), it’s the graphic violence that makes this a truly disgraceful film. Violence is provocative. It can tend to stimulate unbalanced people and desensitize normal people to it. Directors who insert such graphic scenes sacrifice integrity and character for the short term possibility of profit. And, let’s face it, the only raison d’être for this film is the disgusting, avert-your-eyes violence.

Statham is a hit man who kills bad people at the direction of Tony Goldwyn. When he’s instructed to off his mentor, Donald Sutherland, things get a little sticky and the violence goes from bad to worse, all shown in far more detail than what would be needed for a normal person. In the old days, the results of violence were left to the imagination of the viewer, which had the effect of making the appearance of violence much more effective. When the viewer can see every bit of brain and blood as they are blown away, there’s no appeal to imagination, which used to be one of the joys of movie-going.

Unless you have a sadistic streak to feed, this if a film to avoid.

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