A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this intense 3-D adventure movie set in the world of cave diving was produced (though not written or directed) by James Cameron and feels very much like a smaller-scale version of one of his epics -- like Titanic and Avatar -- and is just as focused on spectacle. There's plenty of heavy language (including many uses of "f--k" and "s--t"), and the violence includes fighting and blood, plus gruesome drownings and dead bodies -- all of which is amplified by the 3-D. You can also expect some drinking and smoking and a little innuendo.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A group of cave divers prepares to explore one of the world's biggest caves, perhaps becoming the first humans to discover a new underwater passage to the sea. Among them are expert caver Frank (Richard Roxburgh); his estranged son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield); and Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), the weekend-adventurer/millionaire paying for the whole expedition. Unfortunately, a typhoon hits harder and faster than expected, stranding the five explorers inside and slowly filling the caves with water. Now they have no choice but to find their secret passage or die trying.
Is it any good?
Produced by James Cameron, SANCTUM feels very much like it was entirely sculpted, shaped, and finalized by the self-proclaimed "King of the World." It includes his style of storytelling -- for example, a 3-D computer demonstration of the entire cave system -- and his brand of pretty shallow characters, as well as an obsession with spectacle. And, indeed, the cave photography here is impressive -- but that's not enough to make the movie work.
Most of the film's suspense depends on a real, natural human fear of drowning; but Buried and 127 Hours play on similar fears to much better effect, with stronger characters and performances to boot. Sometimes it's possible, as with Cameron's own Avatar, to overlook a movie's lack of human elements and enjoy the hugeness of the event as a pure cinematic rollercoaster ride, but Sanctum feels like too little, too late.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. Is it thrilling or disturbing? How does the movie achieve that reaction?
Is this movie more or less scary than similar films that have clear "bad guys" -- or even monsters -- to confront? Why?
Is it necessary for people (like the character of Frank) to shut down their emotions in order to be expert explorers and survivors?
- In theaters: February 4, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: June 7, 2011
- Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Richard Roxburgh
- Director: Alister Grierson
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, some violence and disturbing images
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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