By Aaron M. Crilly
Christmas 2021 saw many of us once again have a quiet Christmas at home; what better way to spend it than to watch director Adam McKay’s latest offering in his Social Political Comedy Phase of his stellar career, “Don’t Look Up” on Netflix.
The film is set in the present day and follows two scientists (both played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) who discover that a ten mile wide comet is heading straight towards Earth; in six months time it will wipe out all life on Earth, so they go to the government and the press to warn humanity about it; as it turns out its all for nothing as the government is lead by a science denying populist president (played by Meryl Streep) while the press (in this film represented by two day time talk show hosts played by Cate Blanchette and Tyler Perry) are more concerned with the latest celebrity break up than with the news that a comet is coming to kill them all.
I must say this film is first rate satire, it’s the kind of satire that makes you laugh out loud followed by woeful, depressed crying because of how painfully true it is. Meryl Streep’s character clearly takes influence from a certain former American President who had more fake tan on his face than brain cells in his head and her stupidity and ignorance towards the comet is so painfully funny that your eyes will hurt from the cringe that comes with it, while the tech billionaire with an almighty ego and messiah complex to go with it, who also treats the President as another one of their employees due to the amount of political donations to give them, is played masterfully by Mark Rylance.
Meanwhile Di Caprio and Lawrence clearly gave it their all in this film, which considering in the case of Di Caprio and his well known climate change activism (of which this film is a clear allegory for) is understandable and helps with his performance as he must have expressed his views on climate change the same way his character expresses his in relation to the comet while Lawrence (who is generally hit and miss for me personally) is utterly charming and delightful in her role as the dead pan PHD student who discovered the comet in the first place.
Since the film’s release, it has gained a mixed reaction, partially in the main stream centrist to right wing medial; the film has been accused of having a bias and being too smug for its own good and I must say, I completely disagree with those views whole heartily.
If anything this is a Hollywood film that we need in these times, a film that not only goes after the right wing science denying crowds that have become mainstream as of yet, but which is also not afraid to go after the Neo Liberals elites (who in this film instead of trying to destroy the comet, want to mine it for natural resources and who place all their trust in a businessman with no science degrees to his name, only an interest in it, to do the deed… which goes horribly wrong).
The only issues that I have with this film as that it does come across too surreal for it’s own good at times and I would have liked more character moments and interactions and Leonardo DiCapiro’s character does make a choice in the middle part of the film that I feel was out of character. But overall, it still a good movie with it’s ending partially a good reason as to why, as it was brave enough to pull of an ending that oh so very few blockbusters have done.
This is a film that is a hard pill to sallow, but isn’t afraid to smack the truth in our faces in order to get the message across. It is a film that can reflect humanity’s and our current society’s attitude to any scientific crisis, weather it be climate change, a pandemic or god forbid an actual comet coming to kill us. It also shows that Adam McKay is not only one of the last remaining vocal left wing directors in the Hollywood mainstream but is also one of it’s best and I am happy to report he’ll continue to be the voice of the left in Hollywood with his next project, a film about disgrace businesswoman Elizabeth Holmes.
It was when writing this review of the film and reflecting on the reaction to it as well, I was reminded of Chaplin’s classic 1940 film “The Great Dictator” as it too was heavily criticised by some members of the American population for being too cruel and disrespectful towards Hitler (this was before America entered the war) and being too smug for its own good only for history to be kind to it later on. I feel that history too will be kind to this film as well.
So please, have a look into “Don’t Look Up”, its a film that we deserve during these strange and scary times.