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Not suitable under 15 due to themes, disturbing scenes, violence and coarse language

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Sanctum
  • a review of Sanctum completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 February 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not suitable due to themes, disturbing scenes, violence and coarse language

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Sanctum
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Survival themes, violence and coarse language
Length: 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Seventeen-year-old Josh McGuire (Rhys Wakefield) arrives in Papua New Guinea to stay with his estranged father, world acclaimed cave-diving expert Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh). Frank and a group of fellow cavers are in the process of mapping and exploring a cave system deep within the jungle. Josh travels underground to meet up with his father, but tragedy strikes when one of the cavers drowns.  A cyclone then causes flooding which traps the cavers hundreds of feet below the surface. Trapped with Frank and Josh are Crazy George (Dan Wyllie), Luko (Cramer Cain), Carl Hurley (Iaon Gruffudd), and Carl’s girlfriend Victoria (Alice Parkinson).

With their way back to the surface cut off and the cave system filling with water, Frank decides that their only hope of escape is to follow the unerground river system to the ocean. The cavers then begin to make a hazardous journey through treacherous tunnels and underground rivers.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death and survival; mercy killing; father/son relationships

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is verbal and physical violence in this movie including:

  • Frank shouts at, and threatens, his teenage son.
  • The cavers shout at each while arguing over who is to blame for a woman’s death.
  • A man begins to remove a dead woman’s body from her wetsuit. Another woman shouts that she refuses to wear the dead woman’s wet suit and after some argument the man closes the body-bag and we see it floating away.
  • A man hits his head a number of times on rocks (we hear the sound of the man’s head cracking on the rocks) and disappears in the churning waters below. Later the injured man is recovered, and we hear that he has broken every bone in his body. Frank tells the injured man that he is going to help him and then holds the man under the water. He thrashes about before becoming still and lifeless.
  • Carl attacks Frank, hitting him on the head with a large rock. The two men wrestle and Carl throws Frank onto a pointed rock sticking out of the ground. We hear a squelching sound as Frank’s back hits the rock and later see the bloody injury. Josh leaps at Carl with the pair fighting in a pool of water. Carl punches Josh and Josh throws flaming oil over Carl. Carl falls in the water and the flames are extinguished.  Josh punches Carl in the face, then holds his arm against Carl’s throat until Carl falls unconscious.
  • After being critically injured Frank asks his teenage son to help him die, saying that he doesn’t want it to take too long. The distressed boy holds his father under water and Frank struggles but after a short time the struggling stops and he goes limp. Josh kisses his dead father on the head.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there many scenes of danger and injury in this movie that could scare or disturb children under five, including the following:

  • A woman swimming through an underwater cave becomes wedged in a tight tunnel and panics as she tries to free herself. A short time later the breathing tube from her air-tank splits. A man attempts to share his air with the woman, but she panics and he takes his mask from her. The woman’s body convulses as she sucks in water and her lifeless body floats in the water with her eyes open.
  • A man suffering decompression sickness sacrifices himself by hiding from his friends in a tunnel. He has a bloody rash on the side of his chest and he coughs up blood that covers his hand, lips and chin.
  • We see the bloody, grotesquely injured face of a man with the side of his cheek ripped open at the mouth displaying the flesh and bone beneath. One eye is completely swollen shut and blood bubbles from his mouth.
  • A woman climbing a rope above a churning torrent of water slips and her hair becomes tangled in a chain. She claws at her hair in an attempt to untangle it from the chain and then uses a knife to cut her hair free.  She falls on a rope stretched across the water, breaking her back, and disappears in the torrent of water below. 
  • In a state of fear and distress, Josh tells his father that he doesn’t want to die. The father and son hug each other.
  • While swimming under water Josh passes a dead body floating in the water; the dead man’s eyes are open.
  • We see the remains of several human skeletons on the floor of a cave.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Apple iMac computer, laptop computers, video recorders.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • “tight as a nun’s nasties”.
  • A man talks about getting “the clap”  

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some partial nudity in this movie, including:

  • Josh pulls down his pants and shows his buttocks to a man filming with a video camera
  • A woman is seen in her underwear

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Frank jokes about a man being on drugs when he wrote a poem.
  • Frank and his son drink alcohol of some type from a bottle
  • Jokes are made about needing a drink and buying a round of drinks.
  • A man takes a cigarette from another man, telling him not to smoke as it could blow them all up.

Coarse language

Sanctum contains frequent coarse language throughout. Examples include:

  • “Fuck” is used on more than forty occasions. Examples include: “Go fuck yourself”; “Fucked up”; “Fuck you”; “I will fucking kill you”. 
  • “shit”; “pissed off”; “bastard”; “bullshit”, “Kiss my arse”; “wank”; “son of a bitch”; “Jesus”

In a nutshell

Sanctum is an action adventure targeting an older adolescent and adult audience. Produced by James Cameron (Avatar), the film contains some impressive cave and landscape photography but the storyline and character development are less impressive. Parents are strongly cautioned that the film contains adult themes, intense drama, disturbing scenes and frequent coarse language.    

The main messages from this movie are:

  • No matter how tough things are, never give up
  • To do what ever it takes to survive.
  • Survival in a crisis situation requires cooperation and working together.

Parents who allow older children to see the film may also wish to discuss the real life risks and consequences involved in extreme sports and the rights, wrongs and impact of mercy killing as seen in the film.