Per­for­mances as bad as the script

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

Just when we thought it was safe to go cave div­ing again.

If last week’s 127 Hours set a bench­mark for ar­tis­ti­cally and ac­cu­rately doc­u­ment­ing the re­al­life courage shown by man in ‘‘na­ture’s play­ground’’, Sanc­tum is its an­tithe­sis.

In hind­sight, we should al­ways be wary of any pic­ture whose pro­mo­tional poster has ‘‘3D’’ in larger font than the ti­tle, but given that James Cameron, film vi­sion­ary and lover of all things un­der­wa­ter, was on board as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, it was fairly safe to as­sume we’d be in for a thrill ride.

Sanc­tum – very loosely based on an ex­pe­di­tion into an un­der­wa­ter cav­ing sys­tem that got hairy when a freak storm col- lapsed the en­try point – does have its pulse-rac­ing mo­ments; the claus­tro­pho­bic ter­ror of divers squeez­ing through tight crevices or out­climb­ing pow­er­ful surges.

In some re­spects, this is due to an ef­fec­tive use of 3D and great set de­sign, but mostly it’s be­cause the char­ac­ters aren’t re­quired to speak in these scenes.

The script from John Garvin and Andrew Wight – the lat­ter led the real div­ing trip – boasts some of the most ham-fisted di­a­logue I’ve en­dured in years, and the per­for­mances are no bet­ter. It’s like Home & Away, but with fewer cos­tume changes.

Sanc­tum does fos­ter an ap­peal­ing Jules Verne-like spirit of ad­ven­ture as the team make their way deeper into the cave sys­tem, to­wards the un­known, but it is con­stantly op­pressed by over­act­ing, one of the the most mawk­ish fa­ther-son sub­plots in cin­ema his­tory, and lines like: ‘‘ Bud­dy­breath­ing is the most rad­i­cal thing you can do un­der­wa­ter.’’

We join a large team of ad­ven­ture-seek­ing divers mid­way through an ex­pe­di­tion in Paupa New Guinea, as they try to nav­i­gate their way through a cave sys­tem, be­liev­ing it will ex­tend all the way to the ocean. That be­lief is tested when a cy­clone blocks the only other exit and floods the cav­erns.

Lead­ing the charge is ‘‘ hard bas­tard’’ Frank ( Richard Roxburgh), a leg­endary cave ex­plorer short on pleas­antries or time for teenage son John ( Rhys Wake­field). He’s a bit of a cave Jedi, prone to spout­ing bab­ble like ‘‘the ma­chine can’t feel the cave’’ when the un­der­wa­ter giz­mos fail to es­tab­lish the way for­ward – which he, of course, can ‘‘sense’’.

Ioan Gruf­fudd – the most es­tab­lished ac­tor in­volved, though you wouldn’t know it from his per­for­mance – plays the an­tag­o­nist, cocky Yank Carl, who is fund­ing the quest and is ob­sessed with the ap­par­ent glory that nav­i­gat­ing the caves will pro­vide.

He is joined by girl­friend Judes (Al­li­son Cratch­ley), a

Sanc­tum skilled moun­taineer who has never cave-dived be­fore.

There’s a bunch of oth­ers who make up the team, who I’ll col­lec­tively name ‘‘fod­der’’. They are on hand solely so we can amuse our­selves by de­ter­min­ing the or­der in which they drown. Of course, no­body ac­tu­ally per­ished on Wight’s ex­pe­di­tion – per­haps the most amaz­ing com­po­nent of the event.

I can’t help but feel that a more sin­cere de­pic­tion of the or­deal would have made for a more en­gag­ing cin­ema ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ris­ing fears: De­spite stel­lar set de­sign and un­der­wa­ter cam­era work,

is weighed down by its clunky script and over-reach­ing per­for­mances from its cast.

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