U.S. Release Date: March 28, 2003
Distributor: Paramount
Producer: Sean Bailey
Composer: Christopher Young
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci
Running Time: 2 hours and 16 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sci-fi life/death situations and brief strong language)

A 21st Century Journey to the Center of the Earth
by C.A. Wolski

The Core is a surprisingly good old-fashioned adventure thriller. The story, revolving around the efforts of a group of intrepid scientists as they attempt to literally restart the earth's core, is as laden with special effects as it is light on character development. That said, the theme of putting oneself in danger for the sake of your personal values should resonate with audiences.

Cashing in on the heritage of Jules Verne and such 1960s end-of-the-world fare as A Crack in the World and When Worlds Collide and the innerspace classic Fantastic Voyage, The Core avoids becoming a paean to the environmental movement when it is discovered (late in the movie, but the ads have given it away) that man is the cause of the Earth's unexpected shutdown, and the planned use of thermonuclear bombs to restart the core bringing only an ironic aside from one of the heroes. The script, for all it's lunkheadeness, is smart enough to know that the audience is there to see the heroes get to business, not debate about environmental issues or government excess.

Though the cast led by Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank is uniformly excellent, even when swamped by the special effects and the necessities of the plot, the real hero of this piece was behind the camera in the form of director Jon Amiel (Entrapment). The pacing, the photography, even the soundtrack add up to an exciting and cogent ride. There is no point at which the picture feels inchoate or choppy. It's a deft piece of adventure moviemaking—almost a textbook example of what a credible script, cast and director can do. The only problem is the last ten minutes, which verge on the brink of absolute stupidity but not enough to wreck the movie.

On the acting front, Eckhart (In the Company of Men) and Stanley Tucci (Big Night) deserve particular praise. The former could be the next Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt if he plays his cards right, and Tucci shows that even when slumming there is no need to chew the scenery (Kevin Spacey could take some lessons from him). The only part that seems miscast is Swank, but this is also explained in a throwaway line, and what would an adventure flick be if there wasn't a pretty young thing to be put in danger from time to time?

The Core isn't the best adventure picture ever made, but it's definitely a ride worth taking at least once.

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