Sanctum is like a beautifully shot National Geographic special that would almost have you craving adventure if it weren’t for all the bloody, bloated bodies smashing against cave walls and floating through narrow passageways. Instead, you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat, craving oxygen.

It’s a 3D action thriller from “executive producer” James Cameron of Avatar and Titanic fame. Note that Cameron did not direct this movie and it doesn’t have a single A- or even B-lister. Still, it’s oddly absorbing, but not for the faint of heart.

The movie follows a team of underwater cave divers whose expedition takes a dangerous and deadly turn when a tropical storm forces them deep into the caverns. They must fight raging waters, tricky terrain, creeping panic, and each other – as they search for an escape route to the sea.

The team includes master diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) and his 17 year old son, Josh (Aussie cutie Rhys Wakefield). Their strained relationship is a bit cliché but it does drive the heart of the movie, which is loosely based on a true story.

Sanctum was shot on location off the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, so that alone gives it a certain visual and visceral appeal. I personally thought the 3-D photography helped bring the audience into the movie’s subterranean world, but a bunch of roosters in the audience scoffed at the 3D as irrelevant and unnecessary. To each his/her own.

I wouldn’t care to see this movie a second time around – it’s a bit brutal to watch at times. It’s sort of like 127 Hours – under water. Or Into Thin Air – under water. If the genre floats your boat, it’s best seen on the big screen. If you’ve got a fear of water, it’s probably best to skip it.

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