When a NASA mission to destroy a comet heading for Earth fails,
humanity faces extinction as the comet continues its course.
Deep Impact (1998)
Directed by Mimi Leder
Written by Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin
Starring Téa Leoni, Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman, Elijah Wood, Maximilian Schell, Vanessa Redgrave, Mary McCormack,
Ron Eldard, Kurtwood Smith, Aleksandr Baluev,
Blair Underwood, Leelee Sobieski
When Deep Impact came out in 1998, nobody really paid it much attention, mostly because the Michael Bay directed, Aerosmith song sporting, cheesy as hell Armageddon came out the same year and completely overshadowed it. Despite grossing an impressive $359 million, it managed to slip through the cracks and become the official reference point for Hollywood duplicates, with this film traditionally being "the bad one." While Armageddon definitely has more optimism and Hollywood cheese, Deep Impact wins in the smarts department. To me, it felt like a realistic depiction of how America would handle an extinction level event. Frankly, it gave me goosebumps.
At times, Deep Impact is too dreary to enjoy, particularly at the end when all the major characters are saying their goodbyes to their loved ones. The performances aren't all that great, particularly Téa Leoni, who phones it in like she's starring in a yogurt commercial. The only one who provided any depth to their character was Robert Duvall, which isn't surprising as he earned his legend card a long time ago. My biggest gripe with the movie was the horrible pacing problem. The first half is way too rushed, while the second half is stretched out to make room for all the little subplots to be resolved before outer space swats Mother Earth like a noisy fly. The space mission happens so soon into the first act that you pretty much know from the start that it's gonna fail, and it's tough to really care about all of these characters if they don't have personality.
What ultimately sold me is the way that the film depicts the months before the end of the world. It's not riots in the street overnight. It's a slow burn as billions of people start to realize there's no way out of this one. The random selection of survivors, the massive caves in the mountains, the parents sending their children away for survival, it all felt more real than anything else in the film. If Deep Impact had maintained this realistic tone, it would've been a fantastic apocalyptic drama. Still, it was enough to convince me that it's not a bad film.