The Core (2003), Dir. Jon Amiel.

Core Prods. Inc.

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Delroy Lindo, Hillary Swank, Stanley Tucci

Reviewed by Djibril

In terms of plot, this film by the director of Entrapment (1999) is a fairly standard, big-budget disaster movie. Experiments with seismic weapons by the US military have caused the earth's liquid iron core to stop spinning, leading to an escalating series of catastrophic phenomena, and eventually the conflagration of the earth by solar wind. A group of scientists, led by Eckhart, pilot a specially designed ship down into the earth's core to detonate five 200 megatonne nuclear warheads and restart the spin. The film is generally well-executed and excellently acted, the cast rescuing even the cheesiest lines in the script from ridicule, but the plot will contain no surprises: from the picking off of the crew of the 'Virgil' one by one to the occasional twist and near-failure of the mission. I find it hard to think of any element that could be called truly original..

The film starts out with mixed success: we are introduced in a steady build-up of set pieces to Eckhart's "maverick genius" college professor, Swank's "expert but under-rated" space shuttle pilot, and the electromagnetic phenomena plaguing the world. It is the the latter of these that brings unintended comedy into the movie: the effects of the earth's core ceasing to spin include, apparently, a spate of deaths among heart pacemaker-wearers (the first, seconds after declaring "let's go make 20 million dollars!" and striding into a boardroom); inexplicably beserk pigeons in Trafalgar Square, London, throwing themselves into windows and overturning buses; electric storms that level Rome, in particular causing the Coliseum and Pantheon to explode in shards of 2000 year-old marble. Impressive, perhaps, but not altogether convincing. Fortunately, the plot steams on past these absurdities, and the competent acting and far sounder handling of the voyage below the earth's crust more than rescue the film from here on.

It has never been unusual for post-Vietnam Hollywood disaster movies to blame the military, as this film does with the seismic weapon "Destiny", the ultimate the "mutually assured destruction", and so this plot element is no more subversive or politically motivated than, for example, the monster in Godzilla (1998) being the result of French Pacific nuclear testing. Potentially more troubling is the introduction of the stock character of the young hacker "Rat", an immature criminal genius played by DJ Qualls. The hacker is recruited to control the world press, removing all references to the growing global disaster from the networks, thereby preventing panic. The mind-boggling moral mindfield that this action represents is not recognised, and in many ways this whole plotline is a contrived excuse to have a hacker onscreen playing with a computer, which frankly detracts from more than it adds to the story. There is a hint of a twist to this theme when it is the hacker who leaks the truth about the (now averted) disaster to the world press. This is not a subversive undermining or condemnation of the military's control over information and population-control, however; rather the information being released is designed to celebrate the "heroes" who gave their lives to save the earth. Nothing subversive—or even interesting—about that.

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