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Sanctum (2011)


Average Rating: 4.5/10
Reviews Counted: 162
Fresh: 49
Rotten: 113

Critics Consensus: Sanctum is beautifully photographed, and it makes better use of 3-D technology than most, but that doesn't make up for its ham-handed script and lifeless cast.

Average Rating: 4.6/10
Reviews Counted: 35
Fresh: 10
Rotten: 25

Critics Consensus: Sanctum is beautifully photographed, and it makes better use of 3-D technology than most, but that doesn't make up for its ham-handed script and lifeless cast.


Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 37,974


Movie Info

The 3-D action-thriller Sanctum, from executive producer James Cameron, follows a team of underwater cave divers on a treacherous expedition to the largest, most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth. When a tropical storm forces them deep into the caverns, they must fight raging water, deadly terrain and creeping panic as they search for an unknown escape route to the sea. Master diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) has explored the South Pacific's Esa-ala Caves for months. But … More

R (for language, some violence and disturbing images)
Drama , Action & Adventure , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
John Garvin , Andrew Wight
In Theaters:
Jun 7, 2011
Box Office:
Universal Pictures - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Sanctum

All Critics (162) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (49) | Rotten (113) | DVD (6)

Its downfall is its cliché-riddled and fusty script.

Full Review… | October 7, 2011
Top Critic

Despite the millions clearly poured into it, the film feels cheap and amateurish. See it on IMAX if you wish, but the flaws will only look bigger.

Full Review… | February 25, 2011
Top Critic

Sometimes the sets look like, well, Styrofoam. So do the actors.

Full Review… | February 5, 2011
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Stick that camera down an aquatic cave, wrap a paper-thin plot around it, slap the whole thing up on an IMAX screen and call it a movie. More truth in advertising: Call it a lame movie.

Full Review… | February 4, 2011
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

After a sluggish half hour, this well-crafted adventure kicks into high gear and never lets up.

Full Review… | February 4, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

There's just water, water everywhere - and no one stops to think.

Full Review… | February 4, 2011
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic

While Sanctum isn't a great film, it's enjoyable for the thrilling element.

Full Review… | August 26, 2013
7M Pictures

The strong special effects can't overcome the story's sour focus on pain and hopelessness.

Full Review… | June 30, 2013
Big Hollywood

Mixed in with flat characters and tense action is an incredible 3D visual component - which is where Cameron's involvement in the project is most apparent.

Full Review… | October 4, 2012

It's a continuing clash between laughably poor acting and ultra-serious brow-furrowing that renders Sanctum unintentionally hilarious, thereby deflating it completely.

Full Review… | September 28, 2012

The film's lack of a decent story, character development, and performances, as well as its emotional hollowness, make it not worth the time in any format.

Full Review… | September 21, 2012

Often feels like James Cameron just playing around with some very expensive bathtub toys -- and treading water until his Avatar sequel comes out next year.

Full Review… | September 9, 2011
American Profile

Seriously, you'll find yourself more emotionally and viscerally involved by sticking some Lego men in a water filled blender and watching them go round and round.

Full Review… | July 14, 2011
Digital Spy

The tension is difficult to be felt with such flat characters.

Full Review… | June 11, 2011

...a well-intentioned yet utterly misguided underwater thriller.

Full Review… | June 5, 2011
Reel Film Reviews

Lacks the Titanic appeal of a James Cameron "event" movie

Full Review… | May 26, 2011
Movie Habit

The script is pretty lackluster.

Full Review… | May 13, 2011

Too bad this film, executive produced by Cameron, is rated R for profanity and gruesome makeup effects. I'm betting it's every 13-year-old's dream escape.

Full Review… | May 5, 2011

You'll care about as much as you do when someone gets torn apart in a Saw sequel.

Full Review… | April 4, 2011

Despite its three-dimensional imagery, the film remains resolutely two-dimensional.

Full Review… | April 4, 2011
Q Network Film Desk

A great survival action movie where none of the cast should've been allowed to talk. The script is cliched. Roxburgh is essentially playing Bob Hawke underwater while Ioan Gruffud is inexplicably channeling De Niro.

Full Review… | March 1, 2011
Triple J

Its flaws are initially off-putting, but stick with it and Sanctum does do a good job of establishing tension and comes with some well-staged set pieces.

Full Review… | February 18, 2011
Fan The Fire

For the best part, the actors shut their mouths and the story becomes far more action based.

Full Review… | February 17, 2011

Saying that Messrs. Garvin and Wight have tin ears for dialogue is an insult to tin ears everywhere.

Full Review… | February 17, 2011
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for Sanctum

Mediocre action film, Sanctum is a film that had potential of being a great film; unfortunately it falls flat, and relies more on clichés than anything. The film is a well made, and there some exciting bits here and there, unfortunately, the material presented here is something we've seen many times before. Sanctum is the perfect example of a film that's style over substance, it looks great, but the plot is paper thin, and relies on recycled ideas from previous films in order to create an engaging film. Unfortunately the results here lack, and despite a few good moments, it doesn't do anything to really grab your attention. The end result leaves you wanting more, and considering it was produced by James Cameron, you'd expect a great film viewing experience. Unfortunately, the ideas here are overdone, and not that interesting. The high point of the film however, is that the film looks great, and it's well shot, but overall it's an empty vessel, a film that lacks effective execution to make a truly exciting thrill ride from start to finish. Sanctum is just a collection of clichés, and underwhelming performances. If you're going into this one expecting a great movie, you'll sadly be disappointed. Sanctum had potential, but the filmmakers squander that to rethread old formulaic ideas that just are not interesting. Overall, I was let down by the film, and I can't recommend it because it's just a pointless effort that lacks anything that will truly grab your attention. Watch something else, Sanctum just doesn't deliver and it is a film that should have used plenty of script rewrites before getting the go ahead. In terms of action, adventure films, this one is forgettable, and there are better ones out there.

Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

A decent survival thriller. Watched it on DVD so don't know how good it is in 3D. The cave looks amazing and steals the show really, otherwise it ends up follow a already well trodden path for this type of film and others little new. I have to say as well why oh why make the English actor do an awful American accent, why not make his character English and save embarrassment!

Dean !

Super Reviewer


Not a bad movie, but not great either. I bet it must have been pretty cool in 3D with all the suspended in water dive scenes. Without the 3D aspect, just another cave dive movie with a high body count.

Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer


I watched this film mainly because I liked the Descent and thought that this movie would be something like that.

The whole plot is shallow as hell. There could have been some sort of depth between the characters like Josh and Frank and maybe that guy and his girlfriend. The characters were all two dimensional. The writing was probably the worst part of the film. It makes the characters do stupid things. I've seen a lot of movies with stupid characters, and these characters are really, really dumb. The girl for example refused to wear a wetsuit when going diving because she's an idiot and doesn't know the definition of hypothermia. All the characters as a whole were dumb when they decided to continue their little expedition when they knew a huge storm was coming and could possibly flood the caves thereby killing everyone. Why are they so stupid? It's like one irrational decision after another. The characters can't think for themselves. *SPOILERS* Ohhh and what was up with everyone drowning each other? The one foreign guy breaks every bone in his body (or so they assume) so they drown the dude! The movie makes it seem like drowning is such a peaceful way to go. It's really not. I mean not that I would know, but I read somewhere that drowning is actually really painful. It doesn't seem peaceful at all, but the movie portrays it as a soothing and calm way to go. Then when the dad gets stabbed in the back, he makes his son drown him to end his suffering...whaaaaaaaat?! That seems so traumatic for a son to kill his own father. What the hell is this? If I was stabbed in the back, I'd much rather bleed to death than to be forcefully held under water by a family member. What is with all the mindless euthanasia in this film? Was there meaning behind it or was it just poor writing? I also liked how like an hour after the boy, Josh, kills his father, he makes it to the outside world and survives. I wonder if he hadn't killed his father, if Josh could've gotten help and gone back to save him. Hmmm....I guess we'll never know. Stupid people.

The other problem I had with the writing was the fact that everything in the beginning seemed so incredibly happy and fun. The entire atmosphere was just filled with joy. It was so fake and forced. When everything starts out so happy, the audience knows it can only get worse and it does. The movie is not at all predictable, but the way things happen just seem forced. It doesn't flow together as nicely as it could have. The movie just wasn't executed as well as it should've.

Some of the scenes in the movie showing the huge underwater caves were really, really fake. I was surprised that it looked so terrible. I could tell exactly where the green screen started and ended. It was pretty pathetic. Don't get me wrong, I mean some parts with the water falls and cave tunnels and crap were really pretty and all, but the inconsistency annoyed me. In one scene, you'd see a beautiful underwater cave feature and in the next you'd see a huge almost clay-animated bunch of rock formations in a cave that looked really, really fake. It was rather weird to be honest.

The acting part of the film was just okay. Considering all the actors were given such flat characters to portray on screen, they did a pretty good job. It's hard to play a character that literally has zero personality traits. The writing and dialogue were the main issue in this movie that made it fail. If the writer had added a little depth, a bit of an understory and given the actors the chance to play realistic people then I think this movie would've been a lot better.

I didn't absolutely hate it, but it was a little boring to watch. When all the characters are obnoxious as fuck and as dumb as dirt...I can't really enjoy the film. It was just okay.

Japes .

Super Reviewer

Sanctum Quotes

Josh McGuire:
Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups.
– Submitted by Evan T (2 months ago)
Frank McGuire:
There's no god down here. This place doesn't give a rat's ass about you or me or any of us. We're bits of dust passing through.
– Submitted by Brittany L (2 years ago)
Hot bath and a brandy and I'll be fine.
– Submitted by Chuck C (2 years ago)
[rejecting ill-fitting diving suit] I'd rather be cold and alive than warm and dead.
– Submitted by Kerwin M (2 years ago)
Frank McGuire:
He fizzed up!
– Submitted by Jon P (3 years ago)
Carl Hurley:
You are not going to set any records without me.
– Submitted by rob g (3 years ago)

Discussion Forum

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