Leo Biederman (baby-faced Elijah Wood) is in Richmond, Virginia, stargazing with his girlfriend Sarah Hotchner (Leelee Sobieski) and some pals. Leo photographs a strange celestial body near two known stars and his astronomy teacher forwards the picture to Marcus Wolf (Charles Martin Smith) at an observatory in Arizona. Wolf is so excited that he races off to his crash-and-burn death in a car crash.
Meanwhile, TV reporter Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni) believes she is tracking down a sex-scandal story of Presidential indiscretion when a cabinet member resigns suddenly. She has only one clue, the name “Ellie”.
Surfing the web in search of this mystery woman, she comes up with E.L.E – which stands for Extinction Level Event . . . in this case, a large comet on a collision course with our planet.
This, in turn, leads her into a vehicular tangle with FBI goons who ask her to sit on the story for 48 hours until the President can prepare his address to the American people about the possibility that they will shortly be going the way of the brontosaurus. Jenny agrees, in return for the first question at the press conference.
President Beck (Morgan Freeman) makes his announcement and also introduces the team that will fly the spacecraft Messiah on a hunting expedition against the comet. Spurgeon “Fish” Tanner (Robert Duvall) is the veteran astronaut leading the mission to intercept the threat in space.
The rest of the Messiah crew comprises Oren Monash (Ron Eldard), Gus Partenza (Jon Favreau), Andrea Baker (Mary McCormack), Mark Simon (Blair Underwood) and Mikhail Tulchinsky (Aleksandr Baluev).
Their assignment is to land on the comet and plant deep-bored nuclear devices to blow the colossal juggernaut to smithereens.
Deep Impact now cuts backwards and forwards between increasingly emotional scenes involving the principals and their loved ones. The most moving scenes come from Robin (Vanessa Redgrave) and Jason (Maximilian Schell) Lerner in their separate encounters with Jenny.
The chilling gravity of the situation is hauntingly evoked by the national lottery that’s put in place to choose who will “survive” in an underground retreat.
Director Mimi Leder adds gripping immediacy to executive producer Steven Spielberg’s loose remake of Rudolph Maté’s movie When Worlds Collide (1951) and caps it all with a spectacular display of epic destruction.
Spurgeon “Fish” Tanner
President Tom Beck
Charles Martin Smith