Sunday, 15 May 2016

Deep Impact (4 Stars)

This is the fourth film starring Leelee Sobieski, made in 1998. She was 14 at the time, but her character in the film must be older, because she is shown getting married. She certainly looks older than 14. She's aged a lot since "Jungle 2 Jungle", which she made a year earlier in 1997. She's now a lot taller and bustier. Some girls are early developers.

"Deep Impact" was made in the same year as "Armageddon", a film with the same premise of a comet hitting the Earth. Both films were large box office hits. "Armageddon" made more money, but "Deep Impact" was praised by critics for its greater scientific accuracy and its better written screenplay with multi-faceted subplots.

It isn't stated in what year the film takes place, but it's presumably the near future, a few years after 1998. There's now a black president. Was that even thinkable in 1998? The director probably wanted to shock the audience. On the other hand, the president is played by Morgan Freeman, who must be the most reassuringly calm father figure of any colour. He's someone I would like to be my president, if I were American. It's not stated what party he belongs to, but that's typical. In films where we see an American president we're never told what party he belong to, because he's simply the president. That's all we need to know.

A comet is on a collision course with the Earth, threatening to cause an E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event). A spaceship is sent to destroy the comet with nuclear explosives. The mission fails, simply dividing the comet into two pieces which are both headed towards the Earth. Drastic survival measures are needed to save the human race. Since it's expected that all life on the Earth's surface will be destroyed, a huge underground camp is built underground in Missouri, large enough to house a million people. 200,000 people are pre-selected, mostly scientists, politicians and security forces. The other 800,000 are picked at random by a national lottery. Only people under 50 are picked. As an arbitrary age limit I find that too high. 30 would be a lot more sensible, because the survivors have to be of good child-bearing age to repopulate the Earth. And wouldn't it be more sensible to restrict the lottery picks to people with college degrees? Evolution needs a helping hand.

That's where Leelee Sobieski comes into the story. She plays Sarah Hotchner, a young girl in love with Leo Biederer (Elijah Wood). Leo is picked to be saved, Sarah isn't. For this reason they get married, because the marriage partners of people who have been picked are also saved.

Overall, this film is a lot darker than "Armageddon". Whereas "Armageddon" is a film about averting a disaster, "Deep Impact" is about the disaster itself. Several stories are told in parallel about people who never meet one another. There's the spaceship crew, an investigative reporter, and of course Leo and Sarah, the young lovers. The acting is superb throughout.

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