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Deep Impact (1998)

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I haven’t seen Deep Impact since it hit home video back in the late nineties. I’ve always referred to it as “the other film” due to it’s being released shortly before Bruce Willis launched a crew of would be saviors into the atmosphere in Armageddon. I for one have always enjoyed the Willis film that could be subtitled, “Bruce Willis Leads the Dirty Dozen into Outer Space and Saves the World.” I thought it was time for a re-watch on this variation of the asteroid colliding with earth creating the ELE (Extinction Level Event) effect.

Charles Martin Smith makes a brief appearance at the start of the film as a star gazer who acting on a tip from young Elijah Wood sets the plot in motion.

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We of course know from the outset just what is going to happen to our planet but that doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of the mystery that news woman Tea Leoni is trying to uncover and just who ELE is. She believes that the name is that of a mistress belonging to politician James Cromwell who has left his post and politics all together. “I just wanted to be with my family. Can you understand that?” Things are not quite adding up and the mystery lures her in. She’s about to realize it’s the biggest story in the history of mankind.

Considering the subject material there isn’t a better actor alive to play the president of the United States than Morgan Freeman. His is a calming presence in the face of global extinction that I would welcome into my own home if circumstances demanded it.  He unveils to the world what it’s in store for and what preparations are being made to combat the impending disaster.

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Leading a team of young gun astronauts is screen veteran Robert Duvall. As per usual, Duvall stands tall in his screen time and like Freeman, is a joy to sit back and watch do his thing. Members of the crew include Jon Favreau and in the flashy role, Ron Eldard whom Duvall takes a shine to.

The screen time of disaster films can only encompass so many story lines so while there are plenty of roles to be filled out, the focal point usually stays on just a few of the leading actors and this film from director Mimi Leder is no different.

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The Tea Leoni story involves her separated parents played by  Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell and the bonding and healing of past family issues as one’s time is nearing the end. It’s well done and her news woman character bridges the plot to Freeman’s President.

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Elijah Wood’s youngster and his family are another storyline the script focuses on and it’s his story that offers us a future and hope near the fadeout along with Morgan’s narrative.

The Robert Duvall plot points are well done but as a spectacle this is where the film pails in comparison to the Bruce Willis adventure of the same year. This version of the asteroid disaster flick isn’t as flashy or effects laden when the crew lands on the giant rock the size of New York City to plant nuclear bombs in the hope of deflecting it past earth’s atmosphere. Still Duvall and his crew get the lion’s share of the tearful heroics before the final fade out.

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Like most films in the disaster genre there are plenty of top notch actors involved with a long lists of credits and Oscars to their names.

Deep Impact still comes in second for me if given the choice between watching this and Armageddon for total blast off enjoyment but it’s much better than I recall. It’s also hard to deny an opportunity to see both Freeman and Duvall in the same film playing to their strengths. Max Schell tagging along only serves as an added bonus.

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