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'Core, The'

'The Core' is an earth-shaking sci-fi adventure

Friday, March 28, 2003

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

For mysterious reasons, the earth's core has stopped spinning, which completely screws up the electromagnetic field on which we all depend. The result? Massive static discharges and assorted other unpleasant phenomena that are guaranteed to ruin the radiation shield and women's hairdos, among other things. For openers, Rome is devastated -- no great loss in itself, perhaps, but a wake-up call.

'The Core'

RATING: PG-13 for language

STARRING: Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci


WEB SITE: www.thecoremovie.com


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Nothing less than the survival of the planet itself is at stake. The only solution would be to create and launch some inner-spacecraft -- the "down" rather than the "up" elevator -- into the planet's center and detonate a bunch of nuclear devices there, in order to jump-start the core. Kick its electromagnetic butt, so to speak.

No such craft exists.

Ah, but what if it did?

"We can, we MUST succeed!" concludes the scientific team headed by Dr. Joshua Keyes (Aaron Eckhart), a cooler hand than Luke Skywalker. The craft will be under the command of Hilary Swank. The brain of the outfit is the pompous Dr. Zinsky (Stanley Tucci): You know he's bad because he smokes cigarettes; he's rotten -- but not all the way to the core. Delroy Lindo is the ship's designer: You know he's good because he's black. D.J. Qualls is the computer wizard: You know he's a genius because he graduated from CMU and has 64 hacker-crime indictments.

Jon Amiel is the director -- and a very talented British one. His previous work includes "Queen of Hearts," "Tune in Tomorrow" (based on Llosa's "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter"), "Copycat" and "Sommersby" -- fine films all. In the picture at hand, he captures us from the very opening minutes when co-pilot Swank makes a spectacular emergency space-shuttle landing beneath the urban aqueducts of Los Angeles. Amiel's San Francisco bridge-disaster sequence later is astonishing, and so are his special effects in general.

"Core" is a wonderful variation and embellishment on the theme of Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Aside from the obligatory stupid generals, its script devices are as good as its performances.

So nice to have the enemy be Wicked Stepmother Nature, for a change, instead of Commies, Nazis or towel-heads. That allows us to eschew politics as we chew our nails, regardless of race, creed, sexual or dietary preference.

"Core" is a sci-fi hoot of a good time.

Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.

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