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DEEP IMPACT (1998)




Leo Biederman




Deep Impact makes no apologies for being a sob-fest. I mean, how else do you smash a comet into the earth without killing off a few hundred million people, and breaking a few hearts in the process? As the first disaster-from-space film of the year, Deep Impact sets the bar at an interesting level. Itís not an action film, although it has action elements. Itís not a thriller, although suspense is in the mix. Itís more a drama than anything else, the main story lines being a reporter (Tťa Leoni) estranged from her father, a young astronomer (Wood) who finds he canít abandon his girlfriend, and a codgery astronaut (Robert Duvall) who gains acceptance among a younger crew.

Against the backdrop of a giant comet en route to the planet, itís a surprise that there are so many lulls in the story where thereís little to do but check your watch. However, Mimi Leder directs the action with sufficient flair to keep you interested and keep those Kleenex in action.

Iím not immune. Once you get past the urge to dismiss the whole shebang as an unlikely bit of Hollywood trickery, there are so many sacrifices in the film from so many characters... even a cynic like me can get a bit teary-eyed.

Overall, itís a refreshing change of pace from the big budget extravangzas that Tinseltown regularly trots out.



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Fourteen-year-old Leo Beiderman (Elijah Wood) did not expect to make an earth-shattering discovery when he joined his high school astronomy club - he was more interested in his classmate Sarah Hotchner (Leelee Sobieski). But his telescopic photo leads to the discovery that a comet is on a fatal collision course with Earth. Ambitious TV reporter Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) initially thinks she is on the trail of a sex scandal, but finds herself whisked away to a secret meeting with President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman), who offers her the scoop of a lifetime - about E.L.E. - news of the impending catastrophe and a risky space mission intended to deflect the comet, commanded by former astronaut Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall). But this is no foolproof mission, and everyone has to face the possibility of impending disaster.

"I must admit that I didnít hold great expectations for Deep Impact. There have been so many big-effect films lately that havenít come up to scratch, and the prospect of sitting through yet another one was rather daunting. I need not have worried. Deep Impact explodes on the screen with not only the bangs and whistles, but with plenty of heart to boot. Spectacular and enthralling entertainment with digital sound that reverberates through the seats, Michael Tolkin and Bruce Joel Rubinís accessible script carefully balances the human element, making the amazing special effects integral to the story, and not the entirety of it. They cleverly overcome the quandary of balancing total destruction with saving humanity while still utilising great effects. And the effects are awesome. Mimi Lederís direction is well-paced, always honing in on the human elements. Superb sound and technical effects are enhanced by James Hornerís thrilling and strident score, magnifying the tension and allowing the anticipation to simmer. Morgan Freeman makes a wonderfully authoritative US president, bringing integrity, style and presence to the role; Robert Duvall is complex and understated as the astronaut who shows that experience counts; Vanessa Redgrave, always stylish, as is Maximillian Schell. Deep Impact hits the bullís eye for sci-fi action thrills and the sheer power of an engrossing adventure that marries plausible ideas with a jump into the beyond."



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"Deep Impact" is the first in a long, long list of massive summer extravaganzas. And while I have yet to see them all (and the little independent films that get shuffled off to the minute smaller screens of my multiplex), "Deep Impact" sure looks like its going to be one of the best. "Deep Impact" has some of the most jaw-dropping effects ever put down on film, and it even has a serviceable story and decent characterization. You actually care about what is going on in "Deep Impact", even though you didn't pay your money to see that.

The film begins with the discovery of the comet, which is made by a young kid (Elijah Wood) and then confirmed by an astronomer at an observatory. He is killed by a semi-truck, and so time goes on until the comet is discovered again by a newswoman (Tea Leoni).

The comet is on exact course for earth; the size, as told by the president (Morgan Freeman, in a surprisingly good turn), "The size of Mount Everest". So what will happen? It could hit and no life will be spared (except for the million people put in underground caves) and the world will be doomed, or the comet could miss the earth.

The film partly wastes itself with the plot, which focuses on several groups of people: Elijah Wood and his girlfriend (Lelee Subleski) who get married so they can get into the cave; Tea Leoni and her divorced parents (Vanessa Redgrave and Maximillian Schell); the drilling team that failed to detonate the comet (and instead blew it in half), and others. The panic scenes also seem rather silly, especially a shot which shows a gridlocked highway (although I have no idea how long that took to set up).

Still, the emotion of the characters were very good, especially when the fate of the world is known. One of the film's most powerful scenes shows the president, eyes wide, telling the country the news. Even the acting is good, especially in Robert Duvall's (as the leader of the spaceship) quieter moments, and especially Elijah Wood, a promising face to the future of film.

The horror of some of the visual effects took me over, however. I will not go into detail about such events (since they do happen around the end). Some of them are the most gut wrenching images I have ever seen, some of which I don't even know how they did, all thanks to director Mimi Leder.

I just wish some of the rough areas were taken care of however, story wise and action wise. You'll know what I mean when you do see the movie, which I do recommend you do. I have yet to see how "Armageddon" competes to this film (there is a good chance that the two will run at the same time), but I prefer good emotion and terrific special effects to 13,000 shots a minute by the Bruckenheimer company.

 
 
 


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