TL;DR – a comet hurtling towards Earth will wipe out all life. A pair of scientists seek to convince the world that unless action is taken immediately by the Government, humanity will become extinct. They have the evidence to back up their claims but for some reason, denial is a strong emotion from those who are in power.
Review (warning: spoilers)
Don’t Look Up is an off-beat sci-fi comedy about a grad student, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and her professor, Dr Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) who discover a comet that will crash into Earth in six months and fourteen days wiping out all life.
Anxiety-riddled Randall goes off his rocker trying to process the extinction level event, and Kate wants to take whatever drugs necessary to get high and forget that she discovered the comet in the first place. The pair get whisked away pronto to the White House to meet President Orlean (Meryl Streep) only to wait the entire day because the president is dealing with other matters such as their Supreme Court judge nominee is under qualified (no law degree) and has previously been a nude model. Randall and Kate are then told in the evening that they won’t get to see the president and end up staying overnight in a hotel.
When they finally get to see the president, she blows off their findings and makes a show of getting her own scientists to crunch the numbers. In a nutshell, the White House plans to “sit tight and assess”. The only one who does come on board is Dr Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) but he has as much success as Randall and Kate in getting the rest of the Oval office staffers to take action against the oncoming apocalypse.
Blown off, Teddy says that they need to leak it to the press and tells Randall, “Keep it simple. No math.” To which, Randall replies, “But it’s all math.”
This sums up the satirical humour that runs through the entire film. Practically everyone who has the power to do something doesn’t and those few who do take the scientists seriously, can’t do anything about it.
When finally, those in power do take action, they do it for profit or self-interest. Turns out the comet is rich in minerals and if they can break it into smaller pieces then they can be mined for resources that can be used to build and mass produce better technology. Randall and Kate believe the Government should send nukes at the comet and simply try to divert its trajectory. But instead President Orlean is convinced by Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), CEO of BASH technologies to mine the comet for commercial profit.
The cast alongside Lawrence, DiCaprio, Streep, Morgan and Rylance is lengthy and includes Himesh Patel, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Timothée Chalamet and Paul Guilfoyle.
The film’s effectiveness is in the acting, and I have always found satirical humour to be an acquired taste. It seeks to say quite a bit about the state of the world today. How we’re consumed by social media, fake news and dependency on technology. Meryl Streep is suitably Trump-like in her political manoeuvres, Jonah Hill who is not only President Orlean’s son but also her Chief of Staff comes out with some ripping lines that are divisive to the extreme, and Cate Blanchett plays Brie Evantree, host of The Daily Rip who interviews Randall and Kate and is outrageously narcissistic.
When Randall finally loses it and unleashes a torrent on The Daily Rip about how people should be able to say things to one another, that we should be able to listen to one another, and discern what is true based on scientific evidence, it is as much a statement as it is an indictment on people’s perception of reality today. Whether you believe climate change is happening, whether COVID is a pandemic, whether the earth is flat… DiCaprio loses it in fine fashion with a tirade that I’m sure reflects many scientists and doctors who are gobsmacked by people who believe what they’re told from those who are not experts or have no evidence to back up their claims. The rabbit holes of social media influence is real, but what is presented as factual on these platforms may not be real.
It is clear that Director Adam McKay has created a film that is a message of warning as much a delivery for laughs. That is, we need to start working together regardless of our individual political ideologies lest we destroy ourselves like a metaphorical comet the size of Mount Everest colliding into Earth.
Alternatively, you can ignore the message and just laugh as DiCaprio’s Randall screams into the TV camera, ‘Right, well, the president of the United States is f$#%ing lying!’
7.5 out of 10