In Albert Brooks’ mostly-overlooked 1999 comedy, The Muse, Hollywood mogul James Cameron shows up onscreen for a brief moment to inquire with Sharon Stone’s titular individual of inspiration to ask her opinion about a sequel to his then-recent hit, Titanic (1997). Stone’s character then proceeds to guide Cameron out of the water — quite literally — by telling him to not make another aquatic-based adventure anytime soon. Of course, he didn’t listen. The same director that had previously manufactured The Abyss went on to several educational/documentary-type features centered on the depths of our great planet’s oceans.
To say nothing of Jimmy’s personal ATM machine, Avatar: that god-awful flick was utterly loaded with imagery that closely resembled to that which is normally only seen in the deep. But let’s not focus on that film any more than we have to, shall we? Now, in case you’re wondering what Cameron’s obsession with water is, it’s because he’s a big fan of diving. So is his pal and frequent collaborator, Australian underwater explorer/documentarian Andrew Wight, who did what so many of us all aspire to: turn a harrowing, real-life (but near-death) experience into a motion picture. Of course, such a dream helps when you have a buddy in the film industry.
Sanctum — the low-budget indie flick based on Wight’s extended jaunt with Death — was co-produced by James Cameron. The story, written by first-time drama screenwriters Wight and John Garvin, depicts a group of spelunkers/divers (pros and non-pros alike) whose expedition into the still-not-completely-chartered Esa'ala Cave in New Guinea goes horribly awry when a sudden storm cuts off their exit. Now stranded within the underground caverns, the survivors strive to find a way out — knowing full well that they might not make it.
Award-winning Australian actor Richard Roxburgh takes the lead here as the experienced pro who tries to lead his fellow humans to safety, and young Aussie hunk Rhys Wakefield portrays his somewhat estranged son. Welshman Ioan Gruffudd (still trying to save his soul after those Fantastic Four films) plays a rich American, who goes from being an all-around swell guy at the beginning to the movie to a complete and total bastard by the end as he comes face to face with Fate. Sigourney Weaver wannabe Alice Parkinson plays Gruffudd’s girlfriend; delivering one of the worst performances in this mostly-Aussie-made drama.