Don’t Look Up is a movie about an asteroid which is hurtling towards Earth that will wipe humanity off the face of the planet… and it is scarily realistic. Not the asteroid part of course, although I’m sure there is some accuracy to that, but the scenes in the film where impending doom couldn’t be more obvious but everyone seems to be ignoring it. Don’t Look Up is a very thinly veiled allegory for the way “experts” and those in power are clearly ignoring climate change or worse, denying it exists at all.
To say Don’t Look Up isn’t a political film would be an error but it doesn’t feel preachy or that it is beating the audience over the head with its message. Of course, that doesn’t mean the message is subtle at all. For example, Meryl Streep, bringing her usual level of quality and gravitas, plays the President of the United States in a fashion that is clearly echoing recent real life leader Donald Trump.
This continues when the experts go on a news network, not unlike Fox News, to deliver their message of doom and are met with smiles, gossip and celebrity prattle rather than the seriousness that they should be feeling. This is where that parallel with real life begins to emerge as you can’t help but see the same message of doom and urgency that scientists today have been warning the world about regarding climate change and the same ignorance from those that should be listening.
Of course, within this absurdity comes comedy and satire and Don’t Look Up hits this mark perfectly. The way people react is dialled up beyond the real life, from the chief scientist becoming a celebrity and losing himself, the political slogan of “Don’t Look Up” as a way of attacking the protests of ignorance from the Left Wing and the tech giant who gets involved at the last moment to secure the potential monetary success this asteroid could bring. It makes for a very well-rounded, funny and clever story.
The cast helps elevate this even further. Leonardo DiCaprio leads the charge as the Chief Scientist and refreshingly plays against type. He’s not the impressive playboy here but a man out-of-his-depth, socially awkward and thrown into situations he isn’t equipped for. DiCaprio relishes the role and is fun to watch. Jennifer Lawrence is his support, acting more as the audience’s voice, trying to get everyone to listen and recognise the absurdity. Its less of the “fun” role that everyone else seems to get but Lawrence is always solid and this is no exception.
You could feel sorry for Lawrence because everyone else seems to get scenery-chewing roles they can sink their teeth into. Streep is a great villainous president, Jonah Hill is her son who elevates smarmy prick beyond anything you’ve seen before and the gentle nature of Mark Rylance hides a darker edge to his tech billionaire. Its only Timothee Chalamet that feels like they’re a wasted talent.
This could be because Chamalet features mostly in the final act of the movie and that is where the story begins to go awry. All the way through the absurdity and satire have been ramped-up and by the time the asteroid seems destined to hit Earth, the film takes too far a stretch into the absurd that it clashes with the slightly more grounded approach that had been taken for most of the movie. You could be forgiven for thinking that writer/director Adam McKay struggled with how to end the movie.
Overall, Don’t Look Up is a thinly veiled comment on how climate change is being ignored or denied by those in power and with power to stop it. Its done in a comedic, satirical and well-executed way with a cast who get to play characters who are larger than life. Ignore the bizarre and slightly too-silly ending and you have a great movie with something important to say.
Rating – 4.5
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