The 3D action-thriller Sanctum by executive producer James Cameron follows a team of underwater cave divers on a treacherous exhibition to the largest, most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth. When a tropical storm hits the area, the divers have to dive deeper and fight the raging waters to find an unknown escape route back to the sea. Drama unfolds between the characters, relationships are strained, and rash decisions are taken to save lives, forcing others to pay the consequences.

Sanctum’s plot really shows how Mother Nature sometimes can be our best friend or our worst enemy. This theme has been explored before in many other films with different natural disasters: Perfect Storm, Earthquake, Deep Impact, etc. So the viewer may have a foreboding sense of the film’s outcome from its opening credits. The main working factor is how tense the life-defying situations are and how they make the plot more exciting. The impeccable use of 3D in Sanctum makes the film more thrilling to watch.

For such a big motion picture, the cast doesn’t include big industry names. The only logical explanation for this move is that it allowed the filmmakers to direct their budget towards a quality production of the film instead of on big actors’ fees. Richard Roxburgh as Frank (Mission Impossible 2), gives a solid and believable performance as the leader of the exhibition. Ioan Gruffudd (The Fantastic Four) gives a solid turn as Carl, the arrogant millionaire funding the whole operation who has a turbulent relationship with his son Josh (Rhys Wakefield). Much of the film focuses on the father-son relationship, where Josh is appalled by Carl’s unethical decisions and ultimately has to walk in his father’s shoes to understand what happens when survival instincts set in.

Although Sanctum was shot in 3D, it doesn’t live up to the standards of Cameron’s hit Avatar, nor does it compare to Cameron’s earlier classic hit The Abyss; though the storylines are uncomfortably similar. While the underwater scenes in 3D are beyond spectacular; the 3D effects are the only real winning ticket here. Other than that, viewers are left with a predictable plot, a dull script and flat performances.

Despite the tense scenes and claustrophobic settings, it’s hard to emphasize or even connect with the characters’ anguish; instead, you find yourself predicting who will die next. If you’re an underwater fan and enjoy 3D, be sure to see Sanctum in cinemas now; it won’t translate well onto DVD.