Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin, who co-wrote this story, have infused
it with a dazzling number of different relationships, all complex and believable,
and all played with sincerity by a large cast. But the effects computers
at Industrial Light and Magic are working overtime, too, producing cataclysmic
shots reminiscent of Titanic, Twister,
and even The Ten Commandments.
Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni) is a newswoman for MSNBC who thinks she's
uncovered a sex scandal involving the president (Morgan Freeman), but finds
that there is a much bigger story, one that is going to make her career.
The downside is that it could also end her life and that of every living
organism on the planet: there is a huge comet on a collision course with
Earth. But in his press release, President Beck reveals that the U.S. government
has known about this for a year, and has been cooperating with the Russian
government on a space mission, called Messiah, to destroy the comet
with nuclear weapons before it reaches Earth. This will be done by a six-man
crew headed by veteran astronaut Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall).
As a contingency measure, huge caves have also been excavated to make
living spaces for a limited number of humans, animals, and plants, in order
to survive the two-year winter that will result if the comet does strike
the earth. Persons to inhabit this ark will be selected at random, with
the exception of a few thousand hand-picked for their expertise or their
contributions to society. For the rest, well, it's time to say "buh-bye."
There are many beautiful performances here, but perhaps the best is by
Leder herself, bringing this global saga together into a cohesive story
that is heavy on effects without being light on meaning. The ever-growing
sense of panic that envelops the population is brought out as well as it
was in Titanic. Though the human relationships
must be dealt with quickly, they are given enough time to make us feel something.
Jenny's bonds with her divorced mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and father (Maximilian
Schell) are touching, as is the relationship between teenager Leo Biederman
(Elijah Wood), who discovered the comet, and his girlfriend Sarah (Leelee
Sobieski). Freeman is elegant as the president faced with a disaster that
makes Watergate look like child's play. And the scenes of mass hysteria
and disaster are nothing short of incredible.
Some effects are a little computer-heavy, and perhaps the least believable
are those involving the astronauts. Faking weightlessness with a blue screen
is never as good as going up in a KC-135 and doing the real thing, as in
Apollo 13. Some of the acting is inconsistent, and of course the
script is somewhat simplistic. But dealing with such a disaster and all
its ramifications in 2 hours is not possible.
Overall, Deep Impact is like Titanic: it's not perfect, but it's still a darn good show. ****½
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