255 – The Cave

Even though I like action movies, and I particularly like movies that take place in inhospitable settings, I was not prepared to like The Cave at all. I saw The Core last year, and although that one wasn’t too good it did have a sense of humor about itself. In other words, it was harmless fun. But when I saw that a movie called The Cave was coming out, I figured we’d all soon be getting a stern lecture on the dangers of spelunking, a treatise on Man versus Creepy Beasties. In short, I expected The Cave to take itself way too seriously.

I was a bit surprised. Sure, it lacked wit, but it wasn’t witless. An old church in a remote area of Romania lies in ruins, blocking what appears to be the entrance to a huge cave. Tough-minded, superskilled cave divers are brought in to investigate. Some remains of previous attempts are seen. Then there’s a cave in (who saw that coming?), and our heroes must find a way out while surviving against the yet-unknown inhabitants of the deepest, darkest cave.

The group is made up of smart people, hotheads, and hotheaded smart people. Okay, they’re all a little smart, but some are more hotheaded than others. It’s also important to note that there are two females among the cavers, and since we have a good idea that some in this intrepid band won’t make it back alive, the odds are that at least one of the females will die. The question is, which one?

To make a simple plot even easier: They dive, there’s a cave-in, they can’t get out, they must go deeper and deeper, and then they run into things that kill them off, one by one. And some things that play with them a little. The film moves pretty quickly, but that’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, one doesn’t have time to dwell on plot problems, but on the other hand, action scenes look like an MTV video; you can’t see what’s happening, not at all. Who’s fighting whom? Who’s winning? I see that so-and-so got a scratch later – what gave him that? And did he give as good as he got?

The characters aren’t fleshed out at all, which isn’t strictly necessary in these movies. Thankfully, the screenwriters decided against there being any romantic entanglements; why distract the viewer from the real attraction, the journey into the unknown? But one interesting bit about character development – even though these cavers have apparently worked with each other for eons, they’re quick to jump on Jack (Cole Hauser), their leader, for his command decisions. That is, they don’t seem particularly like a well-oiled machine.

The film’s pretty well shot, especially considering nearly all of it takes place in a cave. Hey, it’s tough shooting in a cave. It’s dark, everything looks to be the same color. Leads to boring, boring, boring scenes. The director here got around this by using different colors for some of the scenes, anything to differentiate them from the previous scene. Still, you won’t find any gorgeous vistas here.

At any rate, the plot is mostly plausible, the creatures are seen only glancingly (which is usually a good thing), and the characters aren’t too cardboard. (The acting, however, was a tad wooden all around.) Henry V this ain’t, but it might tickle you if you’re in the right frame of mind.

The Cave: ***

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