1998; Rated PG-13; 120 Minutes
Robert Duvall: Spurgeon Tanner
Tea Leoni: Jenny Lerner
Elijah Wood: Leo Biederman
Vanessa Redgrave: Robin Lerner
Morgan Freeman: President Beck
Leelee Sobieski: Sara Hotchner
Maximillian Schell: Jason Lerner
James Cromwell: Alan Rittenhouse
Produced by John
Bradshaw, David Brown, D. Scott Easton, Walter F Darkes,
Steven Spielberg and Richard D. Zanuck; Directed by Mimi
Leder; Screenwritten by Bruce Jel Rubin and
by DAVID KEYES
Impact" violates one of the oldest rules as far as disaster
films are concerned. The common bond for these types of
pictures involves a large, threatening natural disturbance
as the center of focus--a disaster that geologists, scientists,
philosophers, etc. fear will bring on an apocalypse for
humanity. The disaster acts as the villain of the picture,
and creates a looming atmosphere over the heads of our people
that prompts worldwide panic. In the end, however, humanity
is always saved at the cost of few lives; the disaster is
sidetracked by the people it threatens. Mankind, in these
assuredly, the humans in the picture are concentrated on
very vaguely, for the natural force itself is always the
center of attention. It's normal for the characters and
subplots to get sidetracked because they can't outweigh
the natural disaster itself. People go to see these movies
for the special effects, not the characters and plot twists.
Why else would they call it a disaster film?
is the setup that "Deep Impact" starts to follow, and then
modifies greatly halfway between the beginning and the end.
The unique approach involves a large, deadly comet set on
a collision course with earth, and the people who live with
the fear that their lives could soon come to an end. This
is a movie to "Armageddon" as "Dante's Peak" was to "Volcano"--in
other words, here we get to see the disaster, and experience
the lives of the people who are threatened by it, instead
of examining the standard special effects festivities usually
provoked by disaster movies. There is human element so noticeable
here that our emotions and hope to prevail outweigh the
need to see the neat and realistic visual effects. It is
not just a natural disaster movie. It is a human disaster
movie about comets ready to collide with earth is, of course,
a difficult subject to tackle in the first place. The comet/meteor
usually comes in a size larger than what we imagined, and
if it collides with our planet, humanity is at an end. But
if it doesn't, and we the people succeed, what will become
of the picture? After all, we won't get to see all those
fancy special effects that we expect to witness. So how
does one determine in this situation if we can have our
cake and eat it, too?
answer is not easy. Here, the script builds up a complex
situation in which the comet is at first split into two
different-sized separations, and the smaller one, being
of large importance in itself, hits the Atlantic ocean and
destroys all in sight along the Atlantic coasts of the globe.
The larger one, still prone to destroying humanity, is prevented
from collision. Yes, there would be mass devastation, but,
as in the words of Morgan Freeman, the star of the movie,
"we will prevail."
movie manages this process well. The comet is accidentally
split into the two different sized ones, and the smaller
one impacts with earth. They recover from that. They can't
from the other. So, as a last-resort, a team of astronauts
sacrifice their lives to blow the comet up so that humanity
can survive. To manage such a process, the script forms
several subplots and relationships between the disaster
sequences that easily take our minds off the disaster or
makes us feel sorry for the people. At the beginning, for
instance, a teenage kid and his girlfriend discover the
comet, and report it to one of NASA's telescopes. The NASA
technician prepares to take his evidence to the government,
but is halted when a truck forces him off the road. The
car he is in blows up and destroys all the evidence.
year passes, and the next major plot-point begins to surface.
We meet a television anchor named Jenny Lerner, played by
Tea Leoni, who is convinced that she has just come across
some sort of presidential scandal. She speaks to a White
House representative who claims that she overheard the president
talking to someone named "Elsie" on the phone privately
in the oval office. Jenny suspects instantly that the president
is having some sort of love affair. However, after captured
by federal agents and taken to the White House, she fatefully
learns that Elsie is no love interest for the president.
Elsie is the comet.
by the time we get wind of the situation, the government
has already prepared. They summon topnotch astronauts to
go up in space and blow the comet up. The president addresses
the world on the situation and what is at risk. There is
global panic. There is despair in society. Every time you
turn around, there's something new showing up in the internal
conflict. And that's okay with us. When the disaster is
not the main focus, we have the characters to observe in
all these painstaking situations. They are real people in
a real world doomed by nature. They have emotions and fears,
and here, they are demonstrated just as you'd expect them
comes together in the end, and by the time the last words
are spoken, we, the audience, have been sent down a road
of despair and triumph. The final speech given by Morgan
Freeman is the best scene in the movie; he tells the people
of the world of how we will recover and succeed from the
tragedy. Like a phoenix from the ashes, we will emerge bigger
and stronger than ever before. The scene, which is written
with convincing dialogue, is a brave, direct, and emotional
recreation of how to stay brave even after all the catastrophe
that has been caused by mother nature.
to put it bluntly, is an awe-inspiring movie--one of such
sheer epic proportions that its nostalgic of early disaster
movies. A genre like this one normally doesn't tend to provide
us with fresh approaches in the formula, but "Deep Impact"
remedies that tedious concept. If this doesn't provoke a
recovery for the current relapse of decent disaster films,
then nothing will.
1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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