Journalist Jenny Lerner is assigned to look into the background of Secretary Alan Rittenhouse who abruptly resigned from government citing his wife's ill health. She learns from his secretary that Rittenhouse was having an affair with someone named Ellie but when she confronts him, his strange reaction leads her to reconsider her story. In fact, a comet, discovered the previous year by high school student Leo Biederman and astronomer Dr. Marcus Wolf, is on a collision course with the Earth, an Extinction Level Event. A joint US-Russian team is sent to destroy the comet but should it fail, special measures are to be put in place to secure the future of mankind. As the space mission progresses, many individuals deal with their fears and ponder their future.
Directed by: Mimi Leder
. Starring: Robert Duvall
, Téa Leoni
, Elijah Wood
, Vanessa Redgrave
, Morgan Freeman
, Maximilian Schell
, James Cromwell
, Ron Eldard
, Jon Favreau
, Laura Innes
, Mary McCormack
, Richard Schiff
, Leelee Sobieski
. Music by: James Horner
In Richmond, Virginia, starry-eyed teenager Elijah Wood (as Leo Biederman) notices something strange during an astronomy assignment. It's a star-like object -' but this one appears where no star is known to exist. He sends a picture of the shiny object to a professional in Tucson, Arizona. After punching some information into a computer, the astronomer (Charles Martin Smith) seems to know exactly what Mr. Wood's object is and where it's headed -' regrettably, his reaction shows the news is not good. Since everyone else in the huge observatory-type building has the day off, the information is put on a floppy disc to be transported on the road. Unfortunately, it is hit by a redneck truck driver gulping caffeinated soda while smoking an elusive cigarette...
One year later, our heroine appears -' she is pretty blonde MSNBC reporter Tea Leoni (s Jenny Lerner). How an attractive blonde newsreader is working for MSNBC instead of FOX News is unexplained. Either her skirts aren't short enough, or it's a sign of The Apocalypse. Also note, the President of the United States is played by Morgan Freeman (as Tom Beck). This could be another sign. When a member of Mr. Freeman's cabinet resigns to spend more time with his family, Ms. Leoni smells an extra-marital affair. That's logical, but incorrect. Immediately, the President finds out Leoni is investigating. FBI agents decide to contact Leoni in the safest way possible -' they get in four cars and start ramming her car on what looks like a freeway overpass or bridge...
Leoni and Freeman meet in what looks like the White House kitchen. The President wants Leoni to wait before reporting her scoop; in return, he will allow the MSNBC reporter to ask the first question at an upcoming news conference. It sounds like a fair deal. This is when we learn "Deep Impact" involves an approaching comet which is, of course, on a collision course with Earth. Naturally, we want to divert the comet's path, lest it destroy all life on Earth. Considering the importance of success, it is decided to hit the comet in the safest way possible. Shooting at the comet from Earth is too risky, so a different mission is planned -' a team of astronauts is scheduled to board a spaceship, land on the comet, plant some nuclear bombs and... KA-BOOM...
The "Messiah" mission team is headed by retired astronaut Robert Duvall (as Spurgeon Tanner), who once walked on Earth's Moon. Before blasting off into space, the younger astronauts go out for a few drinks at the local bar. The crew snubs Mr. Duvall, but he coincidently has gone to the same bar for a drink. Apparently, this is a common way to prepare for space travel. Duvall joins the younger group for some bar-room bonding. It's good that Duvall is now respected by the other astronauts because he is to be the pilot and captain of their mission. Duvall helms the mission with a steady hand. He says "Roger that!" and manages to calm down the obligatory squirrelly Russian. You'll have to watch for yourself, to see if the "Messiah" saves everyone...
Don't attempt to guess the ending of "Deep Impact" from what is written above. Something happens during the running time to open up other options. Now, in the event the comet arrives on schedule, President Freeman and the US have a plan for survival. A cavern shelter has been built in Missouri -' it will hold seeds, one million humans (800,000 to be chosen by lottery) and pairs of animals. Yes, it's called "Noah's Ark". How to manage this with Doomsday around the corner becomes amusing. The silliest part of the story is the plot involving young Wood, the kid who discovered the comet. Told by a classmate, "You're gonna have sex a lot more now than anyone else in your class!" due to his fame, Wood takes giant step toward making that come true...
Not only does Wood figure out a way to have safe (off-screen) sex, he can hop on his bicycle (and, later, motorcycle) and get anywhere he wants in under two minutes. Now, that's talent. Also, it doesn't matter where you are among millions of frantic people, all trying to travel on thousands of congested highways -' Wood will find you. If there ever is a real Doomsday, your best route to safety would be to find and stick close to Elijah Wood. That being said, lucky Leelee Sobieski (as Sarah Hotchner) does well in her role. It should also be mentioned that Freeman, like the aforementioned Duvall helps by just being there. Freeman is simply good in everything, always delivering his lines and faces to the best possible effect -' no matter what the character or script...
Least favorite story goes to Leoni's distressed reporter, despite skillful support from parents played by acting veterans Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell. Of the other players and plots, Duvall and his crew wind up being best -' once they blast off, you're on board with their mission. This is where director Mimi Leder really scores, as sketchy characters in the intimate setting really engage you more than the manipulative others. The real humanity is with Duvall's crew, and it peaks with an emotional scene involving wounded officer Ron Eldard (as Oren Monash) and his wife (Jennifer Jostyn). The special effects are impressive enough, and Dietrich Lohmann's photography looks great. This was Mr. Lohmann's last film assignment, and he deservedly receives a dedication.
Review by wes-connors from the Internet Movie Database.