"Deep Impact" is a fairly serious, big budget science fiction/epic disaster film about an impending comet that threatens to destroy most life on Earth. Ron Eldard plays the pivotal role of Mission Commander Oren Monash, a Latter-day Saint astronaut who commands a mission organized by NASA and the U.S. government to travel to the comet and destroy it using nuclear bombs.
Ron Eldard is the 7th-billed actor in the onscreen credits. Eldard's Latter-day Saint character Monash is very clean-cut and clean-living. Monash is very much a family man and apparently a returned missionary, who never swears or uses the Lord's name in vain. The character's religious affiliation is not mentioned by name in the movie, but is indicated in a variety of ways, including his name and the fact that his family is from Utah. His wife Marietta Monash (played by Jennifer Jostyn) is clearly a Latter-day Saint housewife.
Interestingly enough, actor Ron Eldard also played a Latter-day Saint character in Neil LaBute's off-Broadway staging of bash: latter day plays, and in the cable version of the play on Showtime. It was not a stretch for Eldard to play Latter-day Saints in "Deep Impact" and bash. Eldard is the youngest of 7 children whose mother died when he was an infant. Eldard grew up living alternatively in Utah and New York, as he was shuttled between relatives living in both states. Many of the characters Eldard has played have been New Yorkers. But playing Utahn "Oren Monash" in "Deep Impact" took Eldard back to his own deep Utah roots.
Dr. Oren Monash is first seen in the movie in a press conference scene in which the President of the United States (Morgan Freeman) introduces the world to the crew that will travel to the comet to destroy it. Monash later pilots the space ship Messiah during most of the trip from the Earth to the oncoming comet.
While Monash's team is deploying a nuclear warhead into the comet using a device known as a "mole," the device jams before reaching its target depth. Monash himself goes into the hole in order to un-jam it. When coming out of the hole, the comet has rotated so that it is facing the sun, and Monash is blinded. His fellow crew members helf Monash return to the ship. Unfortunately, when the detonate the nuclear device remotely, it does not succeed in destroying the comet. It only splits the massive chunk of ice and rock into one large and one smaller piece.
After their initial attempt to destroy the comet, the astronauts head home. Later, a combined Russian-American effort to destroy the two comet pieces using ground-based nuclear missiles also fails. The astronauts realize that the larger of the two comets, still headed toward Earth, will do untold damage. One of the astronauts, a veteran of many shuttle missions and moon walks named Capt. Spurgeon "Fish" Tanner (played by Robert Duvall), proposes detonating the remaining four nuclear bombs inside the comet. The astronauts discuss how this might be accomplished, as they lack the equipment necessar for another remote detonation. It is Oren Monash who makes the decision to go ahead and pilot the ship into the comet and manually detonate the nuclear bombs while they are still there.
The "Oren Monash" character has considerable screen time, including many scenes with Robert Duvall. Ultimately, Oren Monash can be classified as the film's most heroic character, as he not only leads the team of astronauts who save the human race, he also sacrifices his life in doing so.