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Don’t Look Up – Movie Review

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Don’t Look Up – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Netflix

Over the past two years, we’ve seen the frustrations of scientists as a global pandemic has changed the entire world. Whether it’s governments not listening or people thinking they know more than the professionals who research these matters, it can be bothersome to watch unfold. While Adam McKay first started writing Don’t Look Up before the world turned upside down, it’s easy to see how the pandemic affected later drafts and the finished film. The film is relentless in how many targets it hits, from incompetent governments to the ultra-rich. The humour works more often than not and Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence perfectly depict the difficulties that come from informing the public and making sure they’re heard.

A lot of people will say Don’t Look Up is unsubtle in its messaging. This approach isn’t surprising, seeing as McKay previously directed the unorthodox Dick Cheney biopic Vice and housing crisis drama The Big Short. However, with the subject matter depicted in this movie, shouting the point from the rooftops makes sense. It’s easy to make parallels to real life occurrences and what has been going on since the pandemic started. McKay not only takes aim at politicians, but also the media and how they twist messages to fit their own narrative and try to use what drives more clicks and viewership. This commentary on the news organisations and social media is done to funny effect throughout the film.

Despite what seems like cynical messaging, Don’t Look Up is surprisingly optimistic at times. Even though they are extremely flawed individuals, the astronomers do remain likeable and they retain a certain amount of hope that people will finally realise the danger of this comet heading towards the planet. Their irritation is primarily towards those who have the ability to change public perception and choose not to. One of the few times DiCaprio’s Dr Randall Mindy blows up in anger and launches into a rant is completely justifiable. You can sense McKay has wanted to say this for years and this film and his leading actor have given him the platform to do it. Even the White House and an Elon Musk-esque billionaire attempt to stop the comet, although they do have greedy motives behind their actions.

One of the strengths of Don’t Look Up is in the use of running jokes. Lawrence’s befuddlement at a five-star general’s behaviour at their first meeting is humorously returned to on several occasions. McKay also creates faux commercials and television programs, with the best being a Sesame Street-type show Dr Mindy appears on. The ensemble cast all work well, including Meryl Streep as a president who cares more about her own poll numbers. The stand-out is Lawrence, who continues to prove she is one of the best actors in her age range today. At two hours and twenty-five minutes, McKay could have snipped a bit more off the film. However, he manages to keep the film entertaining through its runtime.

Don’t Look Up is definitely a comedy with a message, but it’s an important comment to make about the state of the world. Adam McKay feels really annoyed at human behaviour towards important matters that are easily preventable. Even if COVID never happened, the themes presented in the film would still be relevant. When presented with something even mildly inconvenient, so many people put their heads in the sand or just leap through hoops to avoid doing the bare minimum. What Don’t Look Up correctly says is that as a society, we have a responsibility to make the world a better place for everyone to live in and that requires so little effort on our part. Getting angry at those with the right answers is not the solution.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE