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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Sanctum

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service

Don't be misled by the religious ring of "Sanctum" (Universal). This 3-D action adventure is, in fact, an unholy contribution to the cult -- and culture -- of death.

Even on an artistic level, executive producer James Cameron's track record of designing innovative tools for making nature films and blockbusters such as "Titanic" and "Avatar" doesn't hold true for this shallow effort about a deadly caving expedition in Papua New Guinea.

Weeks into the exploration of one of the world's largest cave systems, fatigue has set in and nerves are fraying. Master diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) leads the complex operation, whose ultimate aim is to follow a subterranean river to the sea.

Frank and his colleague George (Dan Wyllie) are joined by Frank's teenage son Josh (Rhys Wakefield); Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), the billionaire financing the project; and Carl's girlfriend, Victoria (Alice Parkinson).

When a tropical storm lashes the island site and the cave begins to flood, the five are trapped miles underground. As they are forced to swim, climb and rappel through a dark, perilous environment, the picture invites us to wonder who among them can withstand Mother Nature -- not to mention the uglier aspects of human nature -- and make it to the surface.

Laughably pedestrian dialogue, paper-thin characters and predictable plotting can be excused in this context if there's a palpable sense of adventure and enough visual fireworks. Yet far more serious than director Alister Grierson's failure to engage viewers or to take advantage of a lush setting is his project's fundamental lack of respect for human life.

Presumably, rational people courageous enough to cave-dive have come to terms with their mortality, but these daredevils seem to court death. Worse, the mild qualms expressed when Frank dispatches a gravely injured character are what pass for humane behavior in John Garvin and Andrew Wight's script.

And when it comes to yet a second act of euthanasia, the offense is deepened as well as doubled, since the demise of the person now in question is much less certain.

Adding to the overall queasiness is the misogynistic way in which the two female characters -- Victoria and, earlier, the doomed Judes (Allison Cratchley) -- are killed off with relative relish after each panics.

This perverse embrace of death is made all the more egregious by the discovery that the screenplay was inspired by a real-life incident during which 15 divers (including Wight) were trapped in an underground cave from which all were rescued. In the death chamber that is "Sanctum," the intrepid are not so fortunate.

The film contains implicit endorsement of euthanasia; skewed values; some gore; brief irreverence; fleeting rear male nudity; a cascade of rough, crude and crass language; occasional sexual banter and toilet humor; and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Benedict Joseph Labre: Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God's special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest. Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life. Then, at 16 years of age, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives. 
<p>He became a pilgrim, traveling from one great shrine to another, living off alms. He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor. Filled with the love of God and neighbor, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called "the poor man of the Forty Hours Devotion" and "the beggar of Rome." The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did. His excuse to himself was that "our comfort is not in this world." </p><p>On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house. Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint. </p><p>He was officially proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII at canonization ceremonies in 1883.</p> American Catholic Blog Today offers limitless possibilities for holiness. Lean into His grace. The only thing keeping us from sainthood is ourselves.

 
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