Alright, go easy on me. I haven’t written a film review since…journalism school.
Title: Don’t Look Up
Genre: Satirical Science Fiction
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Timothee Chalamet, Tyler Perry, Rob Morgan
Directed by: Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Other Guys, Talladega Nights, The Big Short, Vice)
Screenplay by: Adam McKay
Two astrologers learn of a massive comet on a direct collision course with Earth in six months, which will cause an extinction event. This information should be enough to terrify anyone with a pulse. The problem is, no-one seems to give a shit.
Well, Adam McKay just keeps getting better.
The film is, surprise surprise, an allegory for climate change, but with a much shorter apocalyptic timeline. Probably not a coincidence then that the lead role of astronomer Dr Randall Mindy is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, noted climate change activist.
If you’ve ever wondered what the reaction to an extinction level event might look like in today’s world, this is a pretty terrifying, and introspective, look at the current state of humanity. After a grad student played by Lawrence discovers a comet the size of Mount Everest hurtling towards Earth at breakneck speed, Lawrence and DiCaprio do what anyone with reasonable intelligence would do: report it to the leader of the free world, the US President. The problem is, the President, played by Meryl Streep, is more concerned with her latest slide in the polls than being wiped off the face of the fucking planet.
Lawrence and DiCaprio’s characters are forced to do their own media tour in an attempt to alert the public to the imminent threat of disintegrating into ashes, but are shocked (really, why would you be at this point) to find people care more about a recent celebrity breakup between Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi’s characters.
From there, the plot gets…even weirder. There’s Jonah Hill playing the nepotistically-appointed Presidential Chief of Staff, who proposes doing MDMA during a war-room meeting, and has clearly never worked a real job in his life. Meryl Streep is brilliant, playing a scandal-plagued, chain-smoking, red blooded capitalist American President facing upcoming midterm elections. Jennifer Lawrence winds back the clock to Silver Linings Jennifer Lawrence, playing a brooding, cynical type with a mullet, black skinny jeans and Doc Martins. Cate Blanchett plays a ridiculously over-the-top current affairs show host.
The film continually provides commentary about the current state of society, satirising everything from the influence of tech billionaires on every aspect of our daily lives and the political process, ill-equipped populist politicians, collective apathy and distraction, political partisanship, the 24-hour news cycle and our desperate need to seemingly avoid anything considered dreary or depressing, no matter how important it is not to.
It also does an excellent job satirising how the scientific method is consistently under attack in today’s world due to either commercial interests, political aspirations or just pure ignorance.
It really doesn’t hold any punches, and you could probably criticise it at times for being too satirical and not deft enough. However, with such a dark script that challenges the collective intelligence and morality of humanity in pretty much every scene, Adam McKay does a great job of breaking up the horrific reality with satire. The writing is great and the dialogue between characters is perfect, representing exactly how you’d expect these characters to behave in such a situation.
The film isn’t perfect, and it seems the reaction to it has been sadly quite partisan, despite the film making it quite clear that is one of the biggest problems with today’s society. McKay may be left-leaning, but the movie is about science, not politics, and it maybe could have done a better job communicating that. It’s also paced awkwardly in places and some scenes or storylines felt a little unnecessary. I would have also enjoyed seeing more of Meryl Streep, whose character is hilarious but also extremely punchable.
Overall, Don’t Look Up is, in my opinion, a very good film. If you go into it with a non-partisan view of the world you shouldn’t be disappointed, although I will admit McKay’s brand of satire isn’t for everyone. It’s 2hr 15 mins so not one for a weeknight.