Don’t Look Up (2021) – Reel Review

Director: Adam McKay | 2h 18mins | Comedy, Drama

After discovering an asteroid heading to earth, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) embark on a media tour in order to warn people about the danger that lies ahead. 

Adam McKay’s panache for tackling real-life figures and crises in his previous films The Big Short (2015) and Vice (2018) has begun a sort of trend. For films that feel the urge to tackle and challenge the real world issues we often see the flashy, satirical style of the comedic director in a bid to get the message across in a more appealing way. In Don’t Look Up, we see the same style but with it’s intentions turned to climate crisis. Upping the satire and taking no prisoners, McKay’s barbaric comedy is a last ditch attempt to make people wake up to the impending future ahead of us. 

The two astronomers who discovered the asteroid are PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky whom the asteroid eventually becomes named after, and Randall Mindy, a nervous intellect who eventually succumbs to the limelight as his discovery puts him into the public eye. Before any of that though, their first task is to inform the White House and put into action a plan to save the world. This is where McKay’s instant, and not so subtle, jabs at real people comes into the film – with Streep’s corrupt and idiotic Madam President. 

After being told to ‘sit tight’ by The President, who’s self-serving agenda is as transparent as President Trump’s, the two Astronomer’s take to the media in a hope to warn people but in fact get caught in a spiral of media and content. Dibiasky becomes infuriated at the lack of urgency which turns her into a social media target of hatred – whereas DiCaprio’s Randall Mindy becomes a sensation, being hailed as the sexy Astronomer. McKay understands that in such a vast landscape of information something as catastrophic as the world ending is likely to become just another news story – and if you don’t have the ‘media training’ to tell the story right, you’re likely going to be made a laughing stock. As frustrating as this plot is, McKay easily finds truth in how the modern person digests information – choosing to trust the people talking rather than the facts. 

Lawrence is the shining light of reason in a film that is full of barbarity and Jonah Hill is having far too much fun as the President’s son.

Don’t Look Up is one of the most star-studded casts outside of major blockbusters this year with the likes of DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Timothee Chalamet and much more. Although a lot of these actors coast by on charisma alone there is only a handful that have real depth in character. Leo plays Randall Mindy with a nervous charm while giving off the comedic energy he so often possesses. Lawrence is the shining light of reason in a film that is full of barbarity and Jonah Hill is having far too much fun as the President’s son. It’s safe to say Don’t Look Up is full of enough energy and good performances to make it accessible, but as the film digs deeper into its story and the characters become increasingly irredeemable, the film starts to feel exhausting. 

The reason something like The Big Short works is because through all the quick-wit and flashy comedy there is a real story being told, an emotional core that is found despite all of the surface-level showiness. The issue McKay has with his newest film is that, despite having a message and style to match, the people he so obviously wants to satirise are a fierce reminder that the world we live in really is full of bad people. It’s all well to mock the Presidency and the moronic behaviour of human beings, but the connection to the real world quickly turns from entertainment with a message to an exhausting reminder of just how absurd the world we live in is. That may just be satire doing it’s job, but unfortunately it doesn’t do anything for the lighter moments the film has nearer the end of the film.

Everything about Don’t Look Up suggests success, a cast that are charming and varied in their performance, a constant visual style that keeps you on your toes and a message that bludgeons you over the head for good reason. But eventually the comedy begins to exhaust as the real-life implications become greater and greater, leaving the accessibility slightly hindered by the climax of the film – let’s just hope the film achieves what it’s trying too.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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