Friday, February 4, 2011

'Sanctum' Is a Deep, Dark and Deserted Place

Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) must lead his son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield), above, and the rest of his team out of what threatens to become an underground grave in "Sanctum." Photo by Jasin Boland/Universal Pictures.

DOES James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Avatar”) have another uber super blockbuster on his hands? No doubt, time will tell.

The latest from the director/Oscar-winning executive producer is “Sanctum.” It opens nationwide today.

Directed by Alister Grierson (JC is executive producer), “Sanctum” chronicles the experiences of a team of underwater cave divers on an expedition to the most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth.

Victoria (Alice Parkinson) and Carl (Ioan Gruffudd) search for a way out in "Sanctum." Photo from Universal Pictures.

Expert diver and expedition leader Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) is familiar with the South Pacific’s Esa’ala Caves. That knowledge is tested when the crew's escape route is cut off by a flash flood. Frank and crew – including 17-year-old son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield), financier Carl Hurley (Ioan Gruffudd), Carl’s girlfriend, Victoria (Alice Parkinson), and Crazy George (Dan Wyllie) – are trapped and lost. To find a way out they must keep their heads in the face of dwindling supplies and dangers underneath.

Will they survive, or will they not survive? That is the question, and audiences will know the answer if they are familiar with the story.

That question might have also been asked of the cast, for this was not a shoot for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic.

“If the script didn’t scare them off, then they certainly were when they first met Alister [Grierson] and me,” writer/producer and longtime JC collaborator Andrew Wight says in the production notes. “They soon realized that they would need to learn to scuba dive, use rebreathers, dive in the water tank at night in the pitch dark and do all sorts of other crazy things – either in the water or already soaked in water.”

Rhys Wakefield in a scene from "Sanctum." Photo by Jasin Boland/Universal Pictures.

AW is intimately aware of the mettle the roles required because “Sanctum” is based on the real-life odyssey of the caver. In 1988, he led an expedition into a series of caves beneath the Nullarro Plain in Australia. A storm caused the entrance to a cave to collapse, rendering AW and his 15-person crew trapped deep in a subterranean world. Miraculously, they survived and were rescued.

“I’m pleased to say that all the cast took the challenge on board, and to their absolute credit, they were all fantastic,” he reports.

“Sanctum” was shot on location off the Gold Coast in Queensland and in caves in South Australia, as well as at Queenland’s Village Roadshow Studios. Underwater and underground scenes in the film are breathtaking in their beauty and clarity. Credit for this goes to a type of 3D camera that can capture hi-def images from the very deep.

“Sanctum” is rated R for language, some violence and disturbing images.

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