When it comes to disaster movies of 1998, Michael Bay’s Armageddon is certainly the one that the majority of people remember. But a few months before Bruce Willis blew himself up and saved the world, Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact did pretty much the same thing. And arguably, it did it better – albeit not financially speaking, coming in a couple of hundred million dollars shorter in the box office.
While facing criticisms to this day for its schmaltzy melodrama, Deep Impact is everything you want from a late-1990s disaster flick. All-star cast – tick. Bombastic special effects – tick. Astronaut heroics – tick. Nauseating US patriotism – tick. It’s all there, and it’s all done bloody well.
Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman, and Téa Leoni put in particularly good performances but there aren’t really any jarringly weak links. A young Elijah Wood is a little wobbly, but test screenings meant his character’s subplot was shrunk considerably for the theatrical cut. Special effects hold up surprisingly well, and if anything, are surprisingly aided by the 4K HDR restoration; the bolder colours and deeper blacks hide some of the visual limitations. The new 4K disc looks spectacular, offering a solid upgrade across the board for fans of the film.
Regardless of what some might say about the bloated cast of characters and excessive emotion, I defy anyone to not be moved by Deep Impact. Whether it’s Duvall reading Moby Dick to a blinded young astronaut (Ron Eldard) or Leoni’s emotional reconciliation with her father (Maximilian Schell), the film’s weepy beats land surprisingly well and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying.
Deep Impact is an underrated 90s blockbuster packed with stellar performances, exciting disaster sequences, and a genuinely compelling plot.