Deep Impact

Deep Impact is one disaster film that is very underrated, in many ways it is not purely a disaster film it is a character centred film that portrays the struggle humanity faces when a comet is on course for Earth. Real empathy is drawn from characters as families are ripped apart and faith is ultimately tested in the struggle for survival. Deep Impact is a real thought provoking film that mixes well thought out characters and story lines with breath taking special effects that makes for a truly unforgettable film.

When young astronomer Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood) and his friend Sarah Hotchner (Leelee Sobieski) come across a star they cannot determine the name of, Leo sends his findings to Dr Marcus Wolf (Charles Martin Smith). Dr Wolf then discovers the star is in fact a comet bound for Earth. He attempts to alert his colleagues about the comet but dies in a sudden car accident. A year later reporter Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) is researching the sudden resignation of the United Sates Secretary of the Treasury and after following up a lead believes a woman named Ellie is involved in his resignation, she later learns that Ellie is in fact E.L.E meaning extinction level event such event has occurred once before when the dinosaurs became extinct.

After Jenny Lerner’s discovery of the comet the U.S President (Morgan Freeman) decides to announce the presence of the comet named Wolf-Beiderman after Dr Wolf and Leo Beiderman. He tells everyone the comet is seven miles long and large enough to destroy humanity on Earth if it strikes. A team of astronauts are sent on the spaceship Messiah to break up the comet so it no longer poses a threat. The astronauts must drill into the comet before the sun penetrates the surface of the comet resulting in their deaths in this mission crew members are lost and the ship is damaged cutting off communication with Earth. With the fate of Earth looming in the balance President Beck acknowledges the Messiah did not fulfil its mission to destroy the comet and all precautions must be put in place to save as many people as possible and he announces that a system of underground caves have been constructed for an event such as this.

Jenny Lerner delivers a speech telling America that the government will conduct a lottery to select 800,000 ordinary Americans to join 200,000 pre-selected scientists, Doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, artists, soldiers and officials. These people will be part of a worldwide effort to save mankind from extinction. She also has to deliver bad news that “Although some Americans over fifty years of ages have been selected for the Arc due to their expertise in a necessary field of study, no men and woman over fifty in the general population will be included in the lottery” While this is being read the camera switches between Jenny Lerner and her mother and father showing the anguish she faces knowing her parents wont be safe.



Jenny and Leo are amongst those who are pre-selected, Leo obtains permission to marry Sarah Horchner in order to save both her and her family, but on evacuation day there is no record of an agreement to save Sarah’s family she refuses to leave without them and Leo is forced to leave without her. Jenny is told her mother is dead after knowing she wouldn’t be one of the chosen to be saved. Later when Leo reaches the Arc he realises he cannot abandon Sarah and her family and goes back for her, he tracks the family down to a grid locked highway and persuades Sarah to leave with him, she reluctantly agrees and her parents give away her baby sister in the hope that she will be safe with Sarah. Will their faith and hope prevail? Or is their last minute attempt at finding safety too late? With Leo and Sarah fleeing for higher ground Jenny is being evacuated by helicopter but she selflessly gives up her seat to a friend and co-worker and goes to be with her father at the beach house.

There is one last attempt on the comets by missiles and the smaller of the comets Beiderman falls into the ocean creating a huge tsunami as the massive waves near the beach Jenny and her father embrace and are engulfed by water, along will millions of other Americans who did not flee or reach higher ground in time. This is one of the most heart wrenching moments of the film as the world prepares for the impact of the second and bigger comet Wolf. This comet is said to create a cloud of dust that will block the sun for several years and ultimately destroying the planet. “That’s it good luck to us all” is the parting message from President Beck. We can only watch and wait to see the outcome as these characters struggle to survive.

The crew members of the Messiah now back in contact with Earth decide to finish the comet themselves which is ultimately a suicide mission they say goodbye to their loved ones and brace themselves for their untimely death in order to save humanity. The Messiah succeeds in breaking the comet up into smaller pieces that burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere causing little devastation to Earth and saving Humanity from extinction.
The closing scene is a speech from President Beck with a poignant message, in front of the ruins of the white house. Deep Impact is a film that is not only a heart breaking, tear-jerking journey of sacrifice but also a journey of love and devotion, a film that shows humanity at its most vulnerable.

© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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