Although at times inappropriately dramatized, the cliches we see in "Deep Impact" are things we can never get tired of: people saying their farewells, committing themselves, saying their "I Love Yous," and doing something about their lives they otherwise might never have done. Disaster truly brings out the best and worst in human beings, and that is why I love disaster movies, be it dinosaurs, earthquakes, volcanoes, aliens, meteors, WHATEVER. If you aren't apathetic and if you aren't too critical about movies, you will enjoy this movie as a dramatic and emotionally-charged story about people all around us, rather than an action-packed thriller.
Again, a great disaster movie needs a great cast. Perhaps because the focus is on so many people, there's not a lot of room for character development; but given the roles, each actor played the part dutifully. Tea Leoni gets a chance to flex her dramatic muscles as the soft-hearted, slightly nervous reporter Jenny Lerner, Morgan Freeman nails the somewhat cardboardish characterization of the President of the United States (although he has little to do other than make speeches and look concerned - he does it damn well), and Robert Duvall (as nine-time moonwalker Spurgeon Tanner) effortlessly portrays the tired but wizened old-hero that he is. For movie-buffs, the film's mind candy - you'll have a lot of fun recognizing actors and actresses from various films and TV shows: James Cromwell turns in a memorable cameo (much better than his full-length appearance in "Species II," I'll say), and we are treated to a wonderfully cast supporting cast with outstanding performances from ER's Laura Innes and Rod Eldard, Elijah Wood, the always subtle Vanessa Redgrave, and countless other faces I only wish I could name. Heck, even the little kiddies did a great job of breaking all of our hearts. The truly Oscar-caliber performance, however, goes to the special effects people. I dare you to try and keep your mouth shut during the awe-inspiring final scenes.
However, the movie is also unsatisfactory in some areas, as most movies usually are. Some questions are left unanswered, and some developments are ludicrous -- yet all is forgiven when the ends justify the means. If you have the patience to wait for the movie to kick into gear and a reasonable amount of tolerance for gut-wrenching but sometimes slow moments, this film is worth watching. It contains some truly exceptional moments that you will have to go to the theatre and see. There is a cheese factor, though extremely limited (extremely patriotic, of course - all the action is centered on the US, and President Beck here's got a bigger stick than TR); the president's speeches are well - speeches - but they are as inspiring as they can get. Hollywood has taught not to expect much of disaster-type movie dialogues, but what they have here is satisfying ("At least we'll all have high schools named after us!").
Movies of the "Deep Impact," "Independence Day" tradition teach us to look at things differently - not to say that this movie is anything too similar to the latter movie. "Deep Impact" is essentially a study in human behavior, and although the CGIs are amazing, they aren't the center of the story. Indeed, watching people getting torn apart from their loved ones is as affecting as it is watching buildings topple - in different ways, of course. This is movie is a movie in which all souls are united in one in the face of danger (yadda, yadda, how trite can I get??). Talk about cliches - you see me mention them a lot (and I do mean I am the Anti-Cliche Crusader) in my reviews. Once in a while they don't hurt. I'm a sucker for these types of movies where the best of humanity is brought to the forefront, where we all question "What would we do?", when we are all forced to re-examine our lives, our relationships, and learn what we can.
"With every child we comfort and teach, let us rejoice in what we have been re-given. . . Let us begin."
Rating: B+ (First viewing, 5/8/98)
*Jenny Lerner: "I always thought that truth was in the nation's best interest."