The Core

The Core movie still

Director: Jon Amiel
Screenwriter: Cooper Layne, John Rogers
Starring: Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Stanley Tucci, Delroy Lindo, Bruce Greenwood, Tchéky Karyo
Release details: Paramount/UIP, USA 2003, 135mins
Full details: IMDb / view trailer (Quicktime)
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action
Rating: 6 out of 10

Okay, let's begin with some facts. We really don't know that much about the earth's core. In fact, the deepest we've managed to drill is a couple of thousand feet down before the heat and the pressure got too much for the drill. Bill Bryson, in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, uses this analogy: if the earth is an apple, our efforts haven't pierced the peel yet.

So everything that science can tell us is conjecture. Really good guessing, if you prefer. But that really good guessing doesn't come anywhere close to supporting the movie science on display in The Core. Is this important? Not really. Is The Core one of the most implausible and stupid films you're ever likely to see? Hell, yes. Will it spoil your enjoyment of the film? Not even slightly.

In movie science world, the earth's magnetic field is breaking down, due to the fact that the core has stopped rotating. This leads to a small number of deaths because of the owner's pacemaker stopping suddenly, fouls up the Space Shuttle's navigational system leading to a forced (ie crash) landing and has some mild weather changes in the Mid West. Yet only sexy and rebellious geophysicist Dr Joshua Keyes (Eckhart) and his team of spiky graduate students work this out.

His report is not taken seriously by the government at first, but soon the signs of the Apocalypse - dark clouds, electrical storms, Affleck and J-Lo making movies together - are hard to avoid. It's up to the very tousled Joshua and a bunch of other losers to save the world by journey to the very centre of the earth in a multi-billion dollar ship (if the Shuttle is a spaceship, is this technically a coreship?) made out of a substance called unobtainium.

Let me repeat that for you. Unobtanium. Seriously. Now, either the script writers are laughing with us at the conventions of sci-fi films or - and I suspect this may be the case - it's one of those moments where they said to themselves "They'll never let us away with this," only to find that no-one read the script carefully enough to notice it.

Given that the crew consists of tousled man of science Joshua and wrongly disgraced but equally as tousled former Space Shuttle pilot Major Rebecca 'Beck' Childs (Swank) on the one hand, with a sneering villian (Tucci), an aloof Space Shuttle captain (Greenwood) and two caring science guys who you don't recognise quite as well as the others (Lindo and Karyo) on the other, it's not difficult to pick which members are going to make it back.

The Core might not be the dumbest movie I've ever seen, but I have met planks of wood with more intelligence. At 2 hours plus, it's too long for such a shaky concept, but seasoned director Amiel, who might have been seen as an odd choice for such a seemingly one-dimensional tale, handles both the action and the characters well enough without allowing the film to descend into the pompous, jingoistic hell that was Armageddon.

There's no denying that the cast are miles better than the usual big money action stars you'd expect to see in guff like this. Eckhart and Swank are normally found in more earnest indie fare, but they scrub up well and bring an emotional depth to their characters that's as welcome as it is unexpected. But no-one does "slimy yet urbane" quite like Tucci, and he outshines everyone, effortlessly stealing the picture from them, just as he always does. And any film which casts the consistently under-rated Alfré Woodard and tries to make science sexy is more than alright by me.

Swank got her first big break on TV's Beverly Hills 90210 as Jason Priestly's girlfriend and The Core is not unlike that show in a way. It's a triumph of style over content, a guilty pleasure which you should indulge by shutting your brain off and wallowing in its fun superficiality. Just like Shannen Doherty, The Core is strictly for entertainment purposes and is not meant to be taken seriously.

The only sour note is the appearance of DJ Squalls as a computer geek. If, like me, you hated him in Road Trip and The New Guy, then you're going to hate him even more in this movie. I did.

Buy it

UK DVD | UK VHS | US DVD

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