Deep Impact (1998)

Film and Plot Synopsis

A teenage astronomer discovers an unknown comet in the sky that is on a collision course with the Earth. The discovery is kept from the public for a year until a researcher for CNBC stumbles onto the story while following up on political gossip. The President of the United States announces the government’s plan to fly to the comet in a space shuttle and drill some nuclear weapons into the surface with the hopes that the resulting explosion will destroy the comet. However, when the plan fails, the population of the planet prepares for the end of the world. “Oceans rise. Cities fall. Hope survives.”

‘Deep Impact’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Deep Impact (1998)A group of high school teenagers are participating in a sky watching session for an astronomy club during May of 1998. Teenage Leo Beiderman (Elijah Wood) notices an unidentifiable object in the night sky. Leo’s teacher, Mike Perry (Mike O’Malley), sends a picture of the object to an astronomer in Arizona, Dr. Marcus Wolf (Charles Martin Smith). Dr. Wolf determines that the unknown object is a comet on collision course with Earth. Dr. Wolf hurriedly attempts to drive the information to colleagues due to a faulty internet link, but unfortunately is killed in a car crash while in route.

A year later, a lowly background journalist for CNBC, Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni), stumbles onto a story that the United States Secretary of the Treasury, Alan Rittenhouse (James Cromwell), is resigning due to a suspected affair with a woman named “Ellie”. When Jenny attempts to question Rittenhouse about the affair, the Secretary informs her that she has the story of the century. A short time later, Jenny is apprehended by FBI agents who take her to a secret meeting with United States President Tom Beck (Morgan Freeman). President Beck confronts her about her knowledge about E.L.E. and tries to convince Jenny not to run the story for 48 hours in return for a prominent role in the press conference he will arrange. Jenny agrees, but continues to investigate E.L.E., which she learns is an acronym for “extinction-level event”.

Two days later, President Beck announces that the comet Wolf-Beiderman is on a collision course with the Earth and will impact the planet in roughly one year. The President informs everyone that if the comet collides with the Earth, it will likely cause humanity’s extinction. However, he also reveals that the United States and Russia have been working together and constructing a special space shuttle called the Messiah that will travel to the comet with a group of astronauts who will drill into the comet and place nuclear bombs deep beneath the surface. Once detonated, scientists believe the explosion will either destroy the comet or divert its trajectory.

Months later, the Messiah leaves orbit around the Earth with a crew of five American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut. The Messiah is commanded by Commander Oren Monash (Ron Eldard), piloted by Andrea “Andy” Baker (Mary McCormack), and navigated by Mark Simon (Blair Underwood). The Messiah also contains nuclear specialist Colonel Michail Tulchinsky (Aleksandr Baluev), medical specialist Dr. Gus Partenza (Jon Favreau), and a veteran astronaut Captain Spurgeon “Fish” Tanner (Robert Duvall). At the same time, Jenny’s career is on a up swing as she is seen as one of the trusted faces for the crisis. However, Jenny’s personal life is in shambles as she tries to balance life with her recently divorced parents, Robin and Jason Lerner (Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell). Jason has recently remarried to a woman who is nearly Jenny’s age. Robin struggles with her life alone.

A short time later, the Messiah lands on the comet and begins drilling. The process takes longer than anticipated and the drilling crew is still on the surface when the comet’s rotation moves them into the sunlight. The surface of the comet begins to erupt in debris and gases. Oren is blinded and Gus is propelled into space by the erupting gases. The remainder of the crew escapes the comet and detonates the bombs. However, the detonation does not destroy the comet or divert its trajectory, but instead splits the comet into two pieces, both on course to collide with the Earth. Even worse, the Messiah loses the ability to communicate with Mission Control.

President Beck informs the world of the Messiah mission failure. He also announces that the United States has a back up plan where 800,000 randomly selected Americans will join 200,000 pre-selected individuals in underground shelters in Missouri. Once there, the million people will live for two years while everything on the surface dies. President Beck imposes Martial law to keep control of the society. Leo Biederman and his family are pre-selected to live in the shelters, but Leo’s girlfriend, Sarah Hotchner (Leelee Sobieski), and her family are not. To ensure that Sarah and her family will survive, the underage Leo marries Sarah. The marriage will allegedly allow the Hotchner family access into the shelters.

At the same time, Jenny meets with her mother, who has come to grips with her fate, since elder Americans will not be allowed in the shelter. Shortly afterwards, Robin commits suicide rather than facing death from the comet. Jenny confronts her father about her feelings that he abandoned Jenny’s mother and tells him that she feels like an orphan. Jenny is pre-selected for the shelter as a trusted national journalist. Leo’s plan to get the Hotchner’s into the shelter fails and Sarah decides to stay with her family.

The United States and Russia’s last-ditch effort to deflect the comets with ICBMs fails, and the world prepares for destruction. At the shelter, Leo decides to return home to get Sarah. Leo reaches her on the freeway and takes her and her baby brother on a motorcycle to high ground. Sarah’s parents stay behind to meet their fate. Jenny gives up her seat on a helicopter to her friend and heads to her father’s beach house to make amends before the end of the world. Once there, father and daughter reconcile on the beach.

The smaller comet hits the Atlantic Ocean and creates a tsunami that destroys the entirety of the East Coast. Jenny, Jason, and Hotchner’s are killed by the tsunami. Leo, Sarah, and her baby brother make it to high ground in the Appalachian Mountains and avoid the devastation of the tsunami. Meanwhile, the crew of Messiah concoct one last plan to destroy the larger portion of the comet. Fish proposes flying the Messiah into the hollowed portion of the remaining comet and detonating the remaining nuclear bombs onboard of the Messiah. Once again in contact with Mission Control, the crew say goodbye to their family members and execute their plan. The Messiah crew is successful, and the remaining comet is destroyed before impacting the Earth.

Months later after the waters of the tsunami have receded, President Beck speaks to a large crowd at the partially rebuilt United States Capitol. The President encourages all people of the Earth to remember those lost as they begin to rebuild their world.

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Paramount Pictures released Deep Impact on May 8, 1998. Mimi Leder directed the film starring Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, and Elijah Wood.

User Rating: 3.34 ( 5 votes)
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