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Festivale online magazine, May-June, 1998
Deep Impact movie review
Deep Impact

Deep Impact is a much better movie than I expected it to be. Over the last five years, the cinemas have been buried in hundred million-dollar blockbuster movies that are visually awesome, technically masterful and as empty as a folded paper bag. Characterisation has been tacked on to the visuals as an afterthought and good-looking but not very talented actors and actresses have been put into the films to react to unseen special effects.

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This one's a little different. For a start, there are two Academy Award winning actors (Robert Duvall and Maximillian Schell) in this one and others in the cast who have been nominated for Oscars. Vanessa Redgrave alone has five of them. Three parallel story lines run through the film and each shows the way that people react to the imminent collision between a comet "bigger than Mount Everest" and the Earth. Morgan Freeman plays President Beck in a way that makes him the kind of President any sane American would want to have. Tea Leoni is the TV reporter who breaks what she thinks is a Washington scandal story, Duvall plays Spurgeon Tanner, the pilot of the Messiah mission, which is sent to rendezvous with the comet using an Orion drop-a-nuke-out-the-back-detonate-it and let-it-blast-you-forward space drive. (Orion's been on the drawing boards since the '60s, by the way.) Director Mimi Leder keeps all the different stories in perspective, not letting a tumbling mountain of dirty ice overpower the human stories.

Another aspect that pleased me was that they got the science right. The movie-makers roped together a whole bunch of ex-NASA consultants, including David M. Walker, a former shuttle pilot. The Messiah space ship is great, the rendezvous with the comet is some of the best space science fiction I've ever seen on the screen. The actors playing the astronauts move with the right slow deliberation that adds to the illusion of microgravity. In spite of being wrapped up in the people story, I found myself wanting more space stuff. It was that good.

Of course you have to have a payoff in this mind of movie. Some part of the World has to the trashed. And it is. The special effects are state of the art magnificent. Without giving much away, I can say that the impact does to New York in seconds what would take an army of Godzillas a week to accomplish.

Of course, this is a disaster movie, with some of the essential bits of business attached, but it's one that is trying to be more than that. And any film that is trying to be better than its genre, even if it does cater to some of the conventions of it, is worth more than any number of its ilk that merely go along with the flow.

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Science Fiction Film, the interesting old stuff, by Terry Frost.

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Title: Deep Impact (1998)
Written by: Michael Tolkin and Bruce Joel Rubin
Directed by: Mimi Leder
Produced by: Joan Bradshaw (executive), David Brown, D. Scott Easton (associate) , Walter F. Parkes (executive), Steven Spielberg (executive), Richard D. Zanuck
Edited by: Paul Cichocki,David Rosenbloom
Director of Photography: Dietrich Lohmann
running time: 115 minutes.

The Players: Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman, Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, Morgan Freeman
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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