It’s hurtling through the atmosphere. It’s going to change life as we know it. It’s…the womanly action thriller, a new breed of summertime entertainment in which scenes of speed, suspense, frantic keyboard-punching, and computer-generated destruction serve as testosterone infusions between the nurturing of relationships!
In “Deep Impact,” the impending disaster is a grabber: A colossal comet “the size of New York City” races toward earth, and an ELE — an extinction-level event — seems likely. So everybody might as well get their houses in order. Oh, sure, the President (Morgan Freeman) announces a plan to send astronauts into space to blow the thing up (Robert Duvall plays the team elder). But really, it?s time to reach out and touch someone.
For a fast-rising TV news reporter (Téa Leoni), that means sorting out her feelings about her father (Maximillian Schell), who left her mother (Vanessa Redgrave) for a much younger woman. For a teenage astronomer (Elijah Wood) it means marrying his high school girlfriend (Leelee Sobieski). Meanwhile, the countdown continues: Comet-crash minus two weeks, one day, one hour, boom.
“Deep Impact” has been directed by Mimi Leder, who made a cautious feature debut last fall with “The Peacemaker,” but who really swings with power when she directs episodes of NBC’s “ER.” When she?s in the groove in “Deep Impact,” Leder establishes a syncopated rhythm unlike anything we?re used to in a catastrophe spectacle. After a taut, attention-getting opener, she pulls back and slows down the thrills to an old-fashioned pace. On the other hand, when the action became too touchy-feely, even I felt like pawing the ground and chanting: Big bang! Big bang! Big bang!
For a giddy moment halfway into the story, I thought, Maybe this time the earth really will be done in by the big rock. Wouldn?t it be darkly thrilling if doom prevailed? But of course, that?s not the movies. Some had to die — okay, millions — so that there might be resurrection, rebirth, hope. Damn. There’s always “Armageddon.”