Deep Impact Released 1998


This was the official website for the 1998 movie, Deep Impact which was one of the earliestof a whole new style of disaster films. Content is from the site's archived pages as well as from other sources.



Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures present "Deep Impact," a Zanuck/Brown production, directed by Mimi Leder, starring Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, Leelee Sobieski and Morgan Freeman. The executive producers are Oscar ® winner Steven Spielberg, Joan Bradshaw and Walter Parkes. The film is written by Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin.


Deep Impact - Trailer

What would you do if you knew that in a handful of days an enormous comet would collide with Earth and all humanity could be annihilated? The countdown to doomsday is underway in this "gut-wrenching, eye-opening blast of a movie experience" (Jeff Craig, Sixty Second Preview). Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker) directs, guiding an all-star cast featuring Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell and Morgan Freeman. With the film's dynamic fusion of large-scale excitement and touching, human-scale storylines, Deep Impact makes its impact felt in a big and unforgettable way.

Rating: PG-13 (For intense disaster related elements and brief language)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Mimi Leder
Written By: Bruce Joel Rubin, Michael Tolkin
In Theaters: May 8, 1998  wide
On Disc/Streaming: Dec 15, 1998
Runtime: 121 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures






Review Deep Impact

May 8, 1998 
** ½ Roger Ebert
Early in “Deep Impact” we learn that a comet “the size of Mt. Everest” is on a collision course for Earth. There would seem to be two possible outcomes: (1) The comet hits Earth, destroying it, or (2) the comet does not hit Earth, in which case humanity is spared but the audience is denied the sight of lots of special effects. In the first scenario you don't get the obligatory happy ending, and in the second everyone leaves feeling cheated.

Most doomsday movies avoid this choice by prudently choosing less than apocalyptic events. A volcano, a twister or a tidal wave can supply lots of terrifying special effects and still leave a lot of people standing. But “Deep Impact” seems to back itself into a corner, and maybe that's why the producers hired not one but two of the brightest writers in Hollywood to work on the project: Bruce Joel Rubin (“Ghost”) and Michael Tolkin (“The Player”). Together, they've figured out how to have their cake and eat it, too.

How do they do this? I would not dream of revealing their inspiration, although you may be able to figure it out yourself. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the way they create little flashes of wit in the dialogue, which enlivens what is, after all, a formula disaster movie. What's the formula? Assorted archetypal characters are introduced, they're assigned personal problems, and the story cuts between them as the moment of disaster grows closer. I always think it's more interesting if they know from the start that there's a big problem; I get tired of scenes in which they live blissfully unaware of the catastrophe unfolding beneath their feet, or above their heads, or wherever.

“Deep Impact” begins with the obligatory opening pre-catastrophe, in this case a runaway semi that mows down a Jeep and kills the astronomer who is bringing news of the approaching comet. (The other movie I saw on the same day, “The Horse Whisperer,” also opened with a runaway semi, and indeed I cannot recall a single movie in which a semi on a two-lane road did not careen out of control.) Then there's a little ritual media-bashing; Tea Leoni plays a reporter for MSNBC who suspects there's more to the story of a cabinet official's resignation. She accuses him of having an affair with a woman named “Ellie,” and he gets to say, “I know you're just a reporter, but you used to be a person.” (The approved media response to this is, “Look who's talking! A Cabinet member!”) Soon she discovers her error; he is resigning not because of Ellie but because of an E.L.E., which is jargon for “Extinction Level Event.” He wants to spend more time with his family, and has stocked a yacht with dozens of cases of vitamin-rich Ensure. He must not have been invited to the briefing where it was explained that all surface life would be destroyed by the comet, or the other briefing about the 1,000-foot-tall tidal wave. My guess is, the president wanted him out of the Cabinet.

The president, played convincingly by Morgan Freeman, goes on TV to break the bad news to the world, and talks of the Messiah Project, which will send a manned U.S.-Russian space craft to plant nuclear bombs in the comet and blow it up. We meet the Messiah crew members, including old Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall), called out of retirement because he once landed on the moon and might be able to land on the comet.

The younger crew members resent him, we are told, although dissension onboard is never followed up on. The veteran has a nice line about the youngsters: “They're not scared of dying. They're just scared of looking bad on TV.” There's another good line at the high school assembly where the kid (Elijah Wood) who also discovered the comet is honored. A friend tells him, “You're gonna have a lot more sex starting now. Famous people always get more sex.” And I liked a line from late in the movie, when one hero tells another, “Look on the bright side. We'll all have high schools named for us.” But the movie as a whole is pretty routine. There's a laborious subplot in which Tea Leoni resents her father (Maximilian Schell) for divorcing her mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and marrying a bimbo, and while Redgrave brings a nice sad quality to her scenes, the rest of the subplot plays out suspiciously like a scheme to place two humans in front of a big special effect. There also are some fairly unconvincing scenes in which millions of people try to flee from a city, and all of them are trapped in gridlock except, of course, for the two who are required by the plot to get somewhere fast.

Whether Earth is saved or doomed, or neither, I will leave you to discover for yourself. I personally found it easier to believe that Earth could survive this doomsday scenario than that the Messiah spacecraft could fly at thousands of miles an hour through the comet's tail, which contains rocks the size of two-car garages, without serious consequences. On the disaster epic scale, on which “Titanic” gets four stars and “Volcano” gets 1.5, “Deep Impact” gets 2.5--the same as “Dante's Peak,” even though it lacks a dog that gets left behind.


Deep Impact Does Aim High

directed by Mimi Leder
Written by Michael Tolkin and Bruce Joel Rubin
Produced by DreamWorks
Rated PG-13
Hot on the heels of the recent short-lived comet scare comes a whole new style of disaster films. Deep Impact is the first of these to strike and is perhaps the most promising in the advertisements. With a cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Redgrave, and Robert Duval, among many others, this would seem to be a disaster film that aims high.

Right from the beginning, Deep Impact does aim high, opening with a group of high school kids looking out at the stars through their telescopes. Young Leo Beiderman (Elijah Wood) notices a strange object in the sky that even his teacher can't identify. He photographs it and sends it off to a government observatory for identification by astronomer Marcus Wolf. This leads to the first bit of action in the story, culminating in a powerful, loud, but in the end somewhat meaningless accident.

Cut to about ten months later. Despite the accident, the government has still learned what Beiderman found, which of course, turns out to be an comet on a collision course with Earth. Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni) is a reporter for MSNBC pursuing a rumor about infidelity involving the retiring Secretary of the Treasury. She stumbles on the comet story accidentally, but decides to make the most of it.

By this time, the government has made plans and contingency plans for how to deal with this possible collision, but President Beck (Morgan Freeman) bargains with Jenny in return for a couple more days of prep time. When they finally do go public with the story, afraid of the panic and hoarding that might result, Freeman freezes all prices and wages, and eventually institutes martial law.

Now, as with all the earthlings in the movie, we look to the sky. Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duval) and his assorted crew are part of the first attempt to deal with the comet. They plan to land on it with the spaceship Messiah, plant several nuclear devices, and blow it up.

This sequence was probably my favorite part of the movie. While Téa is down on earth manipulating her media career with this story, Duval and friends are out in space maneuvering through the cloud of debris to land on Wolf Beiderman -- as the comet has been named. There are some nice shots of space and an impressive landing sequence at this point, and the tension remains pretty high both in space and at home.

After this attempt to destroy the comet, the movie continues, but the pace and tension slacken quickly. The focus begins to wander between characters. Events and relationships that previously had appeared secondary or tertiary are suddenly in the spotlight, then fade again. The government has contingency plans, which is good, but these appear and disappear quickly and without much effect. The main focus is on the caves that have been built to preserve one million U.S. citizens from extinction. This means all kinds of resentment and bitterness between those chosen and those not chosen. It is at this point that Leo proposes to his girlfriend, Sarah Hotchner (Leelee Sobieski), in what is basically a paraphrase of "hump or death" from Mel Brooks' A History of the World, Part One, adding the requisite romance to the story as well.

At several points through the second hour of the film I had the feeling that we were "vamping" until something else came along. There are some nice shots, especially one involving a large wave, but even that degenerates into what appears to be stock footage left over from Independence Day.

While Deep Impact wasn't really disappointing, it didn't deliver all that much either. There were definitely some areas that might have been fascinating to explore: Is it possible to surrender freedom under martial law in order to ensure survival of a free society, and how easy is it to return to freedom when the crisis is done? How do you rebuild a society that has been randomly separated into those who will survive and those who won't? Leoni's character in particular was enigmatic, since she made her career with a story involving the possible extinction of the human race. These issues were touched upon but not really developed. Freeman, Duval, and the others did an excellent job with the material at hand, but the second half of the movie seemed afraid to let these characters really open up.

Mimi Leder is the director of Deep Impact, and that may help explain the pacing. The first hour was pretty intense, much like an episode of "ER," and there is a nice balance of both humor and poignancy as well. However, the tension didn't carry through to the second half. Perhaps the story would have been more effective as a TV series, allowing more time to develop the various characters and subplots, and more time to capitalize on the formidable assembly of actors. As a movie, Deep Impact reminds me of the recent comet scare that rippled through our media here in the real world. It began with a bang and then just kind of faded away.




March 2, 2002
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Spirituality and Practice

Deep Impact A Disaster Film

Directed by Mimi Leder         
A disaster film in which some of the lead characters demonstrate kindness, courage and compassion in unique ways.

Medieval monks used to carry skulls around to remind them of death. Today we have disaster films to accomplish the same objective. Screenplay writers Michael Tolkin and Bruce Joel Rubin have given us a glimpse of a possible future when the earth is put in jeopardy by a gigantic comet. Scientists call it an "E.L.E." — an Extinction Level Event. This impending catastrophe gives the movie's lead characters a chance to practice kindness, courage, and compassion in some unique ways. That is what sets Deep Impact apart from other mindless disaster flicks.

We follow the fates of Leo (Elijah Wood), the 14-year-old boy who first photographs the comet; his girlfriend (Leelee Solieski); a newscaster (Tea Leoni); her divorced parents (Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell); a caring and devout President (Morgan Freeman); and a former astronaut (Robert Duvall). The latter is aboard the experimental spacecraft Messiah sent on a last chance mission to divert the comet from its collision course with earth. Director Mimi Leder orchestrates Deep Impact with technical finesse and a respect for its slow, unfolding storyline.



Deep Impact could have been a great film,

June 23, 2002 |
James Sanford Kalamazoo Gazette
Deep Impact could have been a great film, but a few poor decisions on the part of its creators have left us with an average film with occasional flashes of inspiration. It's not a dead loss, but, like the film's characters, it makes you weep for what might have been.

When I was a kid the weekends were the most wonderful creation on God's green earth. Released from the mundane activities which blight our adult years (grocery shopping, entertaining the in-laws, hangovers, et al) I was at liberty to spend two days running wild and free. My memories of that time are filled with escapades too numerous to mention - armed with my trusty pushbike (and could even a modern-day Harley ever hold such a mystic appeal?) I rode through a land which still held a little of the magic we lose once our youth passes into the realms of sepia memory.

And, of course, at the centre of the whole magical mystery tour was the Saturday afternoon movie. It is true that the majority of those films will never be considered classics, but to a ten year-old they were simply astounding, filling the mind with dreams of interplanetary travel, duels to the death on castle stairways, and shootouts in frontier towns in the old and wild west. I think I lost something the first time I decided that one of those films lacked solid characterisation, or failed to achieve the requisite level of snappy dialogue, and it should therefore come as no surprise that my favourite movies today are the ones which rouse the same level of passion and wonder in my adult soul as the ones I watched on that old portable television so many years ago.

So it was that as I watched Deep Impact I heard the call of the past echoing through the channels of my subconscious. Following the thread, I found a young boy who looked a lot like me thrilling to a film called When Worlds Collide. Said film revolved around the notion that a large planetary body was on a collision course with earth, and charted the efforts of humanity to build a spacecraft which would enable a select few to escape the impending threat. I haven't seen that film in a good twenty years, and I'm sure if I watched it today I would be less than impressed, but even after all this time I can still remember key scenes and dialogue. I think it's because even at that age the thought of such a grim occurrence was deeply unsettling, and if I'd known about the legend of the Sword of Damocles perhaps I would have understood why.

Deep Impact, then, has a similar theme, one which is nothing particularly new to anyone who reads science-fiction or watched Armageddon in the same year. What is new is that special effects have reached the stage where such a catastrophe can be believably depicted, and so we are left with the promise of scenes of mass destruction on a grand scale (and this revelation is certainly not a spoiler, given that the film's marketers saw fit to include scenes from the climax in the trailer and on the front cover of the video. Bad move, guys.)

For a film which purports to be a blockbuster, Deep Impact takes itself surprisingly seriously. There is no levity whatsoever, which is probably reasonable given that the total destruction of life as we know it is not one of the all-time great party jokes. The film chooses instead to map the progress of a disparate group of protagonists against a backdrop of ever-rising hopelessness, and does such a fine job of creating an oppressive atmosphere that by the final twenty minutes I was reaching for the anti-depressants which I'd been saving for the next Batman sequel.

The problem with this film is that it doesn't have enough time at its disposal to give the story the attention it deserves. There are a *lot* of characters in this film, and in choosing to concentrate on Tia Leoni's reporter and the crew of the shuttle sent to nullify the threat the film's authors ensure that every other character comes across as somewhat underwritten. What is worse is that we get very little insight into the way humanity at large is coping with the impending catastrophe, an intriguing concept which the authors discard in favour of more theatrics from Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski (a subplot which was probably shoehorned in to attract the teenage crowd, but which inevitably arouses zero interest due to the total lack of chemistry between the two actors). Not only that, but Jon Favreau makes one of the most unexpectedly sudden exits since Steven Seagal in Executive Decision, which is a damn shame since he deserves his screen time more than most of the other actors in this flick.

As a result, the fractured narrative and compressed feel of this film scuttle any chance Deep Impact had of rising above the average. That being said, however, I cannot deny that there is still much to like. Let us not forget that within this film's 120 minutes you will witness

- a touching, bittersweet scene where Robert Duvall reads a book to a fellow astronaut;
- a subdued performance from Morgan Freeman as the US president, which is still better than most actors' best; and
- a state of the nation address at the end of the line which, with its understated delivery, is a darn sight more terrifying than the high point of your average horror movie.

And finally, there's a scene at the end involving Tia Leone and Maximilian Schell on a beach which will tear the heart out of anyone who has ever meditated upon the transience of human existence, and single-handedly defies Hollywood convention to boot. It's worth seeing the film just for this moment alone, but only if you don't mind being punched in the gut for your trouble.

So what we have here is a fairly run-of-the-mill film which occasionally manages to sing far above its range. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a flawed masterpiece, but it's worth sitting through just to catch those moments when it connects with the basic humanity within us all.

And if you must ask for whom the bell tolls, you'll find the answer here.

This film has its moments, and is worth seeing on their strength alone. Just don't expect miracles.



**** Sstephanie S
February 18, 2009
Liked this much better than Armageddon! You have to see this one!


Brian B
** ½ February 11, 2009
Hey, I think I would like to have Morgan Freeman as President. Oh yeah, besides that, the movie sucked kind of bad.



* Adam C
February 11, 2009
More believable than Armageddon, but it just isn't that interesting. It tries too hard to play off the idea of a comet impact, and does not seem to create a story or characters that we can love.


Super Reviewer
*** Drew S
February 9, 2009
Deep Impact has a few fresh edges on most disaster movie fare, but ultimately, its conformity to studio standards keeps it from being truly great. See that "hope survives" splashed across the poster? That is the theme, and you will be beaten over and over with it, so make your peace now.

The movie dabbles with some interesting themes, such as abandonment and solitude and even a Shirley Jackon-esque impartial lottery to determine the fate of humanity, but nothing is scratched too heavily. The film is too fragmented, burdened with subplots (most of them unnecessary) and overly concerned with characters who don't really figure into the movie much. It's as if the studio told Mimi Leder that her film was too slow and to throw in more explosions and a happy ending, which just makes it all a bloated mess. And the ending is hellacious indeed, a truly moronic conclusion to a subplot that should have been axed at the first draft of the script. Also, one would suspect that this whole affair would be more palatable if Tea Leoni could act. She just looks bored.

Deep Impact isn't risible or terrible, but it's a total waste of potential, most likely watered down for us dumb Americans. The predictable, overly convenient plot really holds back the interestingly-composed action and the glimmers of intelligence. Worth your two hours if you catch it surfing the Sci-Fi Channel or something but not a flick to actively seek out.



*** Adam F
February 8, 2009
This film made more of an impact on me than the Bruce Willis one
**** Brandon R
February 7, 2009
Great acting and great writing in a movie that almost made me cry. Almost, mind you...


*Gary T
February 5, 2009
not a patch on Armageddon



Tobias L
*½ February 5, 2009
I know it was the same released the same year as Armageddon with the exact same themes and a lot of the same subtext, but this sucked ass. The problem is that they try too hard to get you to like the characters. The action is so sporadic and boring when it happens that whats the point. You just end up waiting for something to occur...and it never does....miss this dross and see Armageddon instead.


** Renee M
February 4, 2009
All I remember about this movie was predicting the ending in the first 15 minutes and being mad that no one believed me.


***** relofer pepz r
February 4, 2009
love it love it love it.. harhar.. this movie made me cry the entire film.. as in.. hope this won't happen to me.. i just really can't..

what part i love most here:
1. when elijah asked to marry his girlfriend.. love it..
2. when the girl sacrificed herself and gave the chance to live to her coworker and her child..
3. the father daughter thing in seaside.. just love that scene

(sorry.. i just cant remember the names anymore.. it's really been a while.. but i bought an original vcd tape.. so i could watch it anytime)



Keith T
*** ½ January 31, 2009
Not quite sure why it has taken me 11 years to catch up with this film, since it is actually pretty good. I probably saw "Armageddon" and thought, "Oh no, not another end of the World movie with a similar plot". With 100% hindsight I can say that this one has both a better cast, story and acting. I noted a number of members of the West Wing cast too, which might have swayed me in its favour. Shame they didn't give Robert Duvall the line "I love the smell of comet in the morning" and play Ride of the Valkyrie as he flew to try to save us! Wouldn't it have been ghastly if we had had a proper Extinction Level Event prognosis (other than Global Warming) with Dubya still in the White House?


*** Bob L
January 30, 2009
An ok disaster movie soiled by coming out the same time as that other meteor film Armageddon (short for 'Ahmagettin alot of noisy explosions for my buck!) This swapped the 'wow factor' FX for a plot and acting of more substance. True- there are a few moments of absolute popcorn here, but outside of those you get a fair hour and a half of decent cinema.


Christopher F
**½ January 29, 2009
When Morgan Freeman tells you what to do, you do it.