Directed by Alister Grierson
He does not, at least, indugle 3D's most egregious excess—he eschews eye-poking "boo!" moments. Great 3D does not jut out at you, but sucks you into it. Grierson works hard to make the 3D subtle—so much so that, for most of the movie, it's invisible. When it is noticeable, the director defies the technology's best practices: instead of choosing long takes and static shots with provocative depths of field, he often follows characters with winding (and dizzying!) tracking shots; cuts unnecessarily; and leaves arbitrary objects in the shots' foregrounds: while we might not register a computer monitor or a tree branch in a 2D frame, the extra dimension allows them absurdly to dominate too many shots.
That Grierson fucks up the 3D means the movie's fucked. What else is there? About a team of spelunkers (though that word or any of its variations is never used—they're "caving") who must battle rock and water while finding a new way out when their cave gets flooded, Sanctum is a cautionary tale, like 127 Hours, about what happens when men and women fail to bow to the supremacy of nature. (It's also a story about fathers and sons in which, to establish a personal identity, a figurative, psychological act of patricide is made literal.) Grierson, with screenwriters John Garvin and Andrew Wight, define every character, setting and plot development with a spoken cliche: the cave is "the mother of all caves"; it'll "kill you in a heartbeat"; it's in a jungle where "even God couldn't find you"; the team leader (the gruff Richard Roxburgh) is "the greatest explorer of our time"; they all "have to get out of here. Now!" (The one thing Grierson does well is derive tension from tight squeezes, but that's probably more because claustrophobia is, like cinema, essentially spatial, and thus maybe hard for any director to get wrong?) Roxburgh has a grating habit of breaking out a stanza of Coleridge whenever he's feeling bored, awed or sentimental, but Grierson obviously sides with the reproach offered by the character's prosaic colleague: "let's keep the poetry to a minimum". Consider it done, pal.
Opens February 4