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The Core (2003)
Director: Jim Amiel

review by Debbie Moon

On an ordinary day in an ordinary American city, dozens of people suddenly drop dead. Pigeons in Trafalgar Square start re-enacting Hitchcock. Crack NASA pilot Beck Childs finds herself landing the space shuttle hundreds of miles off course after the instrumentation fails.
   Madcap geophysicist Josh Keyes soon realises this is only the beginning of a worldwide disaster. The earth's outer core, an underground sea of super-heated metal, has stopped rotating, and the earth's electromagnetic field is falling to pieces as a result. Within the year, all life will be incinerated as solar radiation that the field normally wards off penetrates to the surface. Mankind's only hope is to send a crack team into the core to 're-start' it: but since all current information about the Earth's interior is basically guesswork, that's not going to be easy...
The Core
disaster strikes... in, The Core
Okay, so it's not Shakespeare. But for a disaster movie, The Core is a hugely enjoyable and surprisingly good film. Writers Cooper Layne and John Rogers have lots of fun with dodgy military types, secret super-weapons, and mass destruction via earthquake, lightning, and solar radiation (the later more dramatic than it sounds). The science is as plausible as a work of fiction needs to be, and the dangers the ship encounters are often ingenious. They even find a way to do the traditional 'We have to go outside and repair the ship' scene - which, a hundred miles down in a sea of lava, is pretty good going.
   But they also take time during the preparations for the mission to establish characters - real characters that we really care about. In a genre that basically consists of menacing our heroes with various nasty deaths, you'd think that would be an obvious requirement, but somehow, so many disaster movies forget it... In a cast refreshingly free of A-list names, everyone gets their chance to shine. Aaron Eckhart, as Keyes, is an attractive everyman hero, and Hilary Swank plays Beck's insecurities without ever losing her strengths. Stanley Tucci is obviously having the time of his life as the vain, chain smoking intellectual who knows more about this project that he's letting on. D.J. Qualls, as teenaged hacker Rat, their connection to the world above, also deserves an honourable mention.
   The return to the surface drags a little - once you've saved the world, the movie is over - and the occasional cliché slips into the dialogue, but overall, this is a far better film than you might expect. If you're looking for an action-packed rollercoaster ride with a little depth, this is the film for you.
The Core

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