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The Earth's core has stopped spinning, causing a series of electromagnetic disturbances and apocalyptic events which, scientists believe, will see solar microwaves cook the planet within one year. The government calls in three leading geophysicists (Aaron Eckhart, Stanley Tucci, Tcheky Karyo) to come up with a plan. They believe a series of nuclear explosions within the core might trigger it to spin once again. Brilliant physicist (Delroy Lindo) is commissioned to build a $50 billion machine capable of taking them and two astronauts (Hilary Swank, Bruce Greenwood) to the centre of the earth, while the FBI's most wanted computer hacker (DJ Qualls) is hired to keep the top secret mission off the Internet.

Review by Louise Keller:
A splendid sci-fi adventure, The Core enthrals at every turn with an original concept impressively brought to life by a top team. Director Jon Amiel (Copycat, Entrapment) knows how to tell a story, and makes good use of the material (comprising an intelligent script, dazzling effects and an engaging cast) to pull together all the ingredients. What I like about a good sci-fi film is that apart from being entertained, there is always the opportunity to learn something, and the notion that the Earth’s magnetic field changes (as it does naturally every 250,000 years or so) is intriguing if not beyond the realms of possibility. But ultimately this is just a good yarn, fuelled by the imagination, as it introduces us to a group of diverse and strong characters charged with a special responsibility to save mankind. 

Aaron Eckhart makes a compelling reluctant hero – he is the charismatic college professor who thinks on his feet (albeit he can’t knot a neck-tie); Hilary Swank – superb as the likeable no-nonsense astronaut, is eager to prove she can make the tough decision at the crucial moment. While the action centers on Eckhart and Swank’s characters, The Core boasts an ensemble cast that cannot be faulted on any level. Stanley Tucci steals scenes again and again as the overbearing know-all scientist, whose pretentious mutterings of moment-by-moment narration into a tape recorder provide some light relief, while Delroy Lindo and Tchecky Karyo provide diversity and allow for plenty of light and shade. D.J. Qualls’ nerdy computer hacker, Rat, adds a lovely bizarre touch to the team, and as the countdown to Plan B begins, we are rooting for him to defy the odds and crack the code to start the detonation of the dreaded Destiny project. 

Spectacular effects including a fabulous sequence when the craft goes on a collision course through a maze of gigantic diamonds, and a resounding, thrilling score beefs up the tension. Filmed in a life-size ship, with computer generated moving exteriors, scenes were shot in London, Paris, Rome, Montreal, Washing DC, San Francisco and Utah. The destruction of known monuments (such as the Golden Gate Bridge) is especially unsettling; I sat engrossed for the two hours plus on the edge of my seat. This is a satisfying trip, and totally fulfils the criteria of a great sci-fi escapade.

A DVD with features that deliver, my favourites are the excellent segments that deconstruct the visual effects. First, in the Pre-Visualisation section, we learn in detail from visual effects supervisor Greg McMurry, that everything begins on storyboards. The director sits with the storyboard artist and together they painstakingly go through every scene, he says and clearly describes the process. So many scenes are actually built inside the computer, and we are shown the point at which a scene is freeze-framed, so the special effects wizards can do their work. This is explained by editor Terry Rawlings, while director Jon Amiel talks about how the angle of descent was calculated for the shuttle that crash lands in the LA river and space required for it to pass through the bridge.

Then to the specifics – Trafalgar Square, The Golden Gate Bridge and The Geode which was modelled after the gem stores. Daniele Calajocome, president 3Dsite explains how a three dimensional colour-coded bird was devised for the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Taking six months of work for a full time crew of eight/nine people, there were 34 shots in total of these birds integrated into the panicking crowds that crashed into walls and buildings. But here’s the rub! Jon Amiel confides a little secret. A trout was inserted (originally as a joke, but then intentionally left in as a challenge for anyone wishing to look for it). 

The deleted/extended scenes have an optional director’s commentary and there’s an above average making of features that includes behind the scenes footage, production sketches and comments from cast and crew. ‘Why aren’t you watching my movie?’ Amiel jokes at the beginning of his commentary, and engages us with an interesting patter. He explains what they tried to achieve with each character’s emotion during the climactic emotionally charged scene when things go wrong, and the kind of difficulties the actors encountered.

Published November 13, 2003

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CAST: Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Stanely Tucci, D.J. Qualls, Richard Jenkins, Tcheky Karyo, Bruce Greenwood, Alfre Woodard


SCRIPT: Cooper Layne, John Rogers

RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes

PRESENTATION: English Dolby Digital 5.1; Widescreen anamorphic 2.34-1

SPECIAL FEATURES: commentary by director; The Making of The Core; Visual Effects; 10 deleted/extended scenes with director commentary

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: November 13, 2003

DVD RELEASE: Paramount

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