Don’t Look Up

Year: 2021
Production Co: HyperObject Industries
Director: Adam McKay
Producer: Adam McKay
Writer: Adam McKay/David Sirota
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Timothee Chalamet, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Rylance, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi, Himesh Patel, Michael Chiklis, Liev Schreiber

Two astronomers discover a comet big enough to destroy all life on Earth is heading towards us, news one would think would galvanise the world. Instead, politics dithers constantly towards its own ends, the media remains as vacuous and ever and it seems like everyone's lost their minds.

The premise alone would make it seem like the time has never been riper for a fable like Don't Look Up and what it has to say about the American media/scientific/political ecosystem.

Like I so often am, however, I was surprised by how negative the overall critical reaction was. A lot of people seemed to think it overstated itself and needed to be more subtle, but to me it melded points with story deftly enough.

Maybe self-important American critics just don't like to be told the truth about their country – that it's usually run by feckless idiots and populated by people so brainwashed by shrill socio-political discourse they switch off to it all and buy into the shallowest parts of life for distraction.

When astrophysicist student Kate (Jennifer Lawrence, back to screens after a long break) sees a large body in space during a routine scan, her professor Randall (Leonardo DiCaprio) assures the team it's nothing, so they don't worry, but he's done the sums and he admits to Kate afterward that it spells doom for the Earth.

Carrying the most urgent news in the species' history, they wait all day at the White House but eventually get a meeting with the uncaring, opportunistic and none-too-smart President (Meryl Streep) and her Trumpian chief of staff and son (Jonah Hill), neither of whom seem to understand what's at stake short of twisting the news to their own political advantage.

Frustrated by such apathy, Kate and Randall take their show on the road, determined to spread the word themselves through the media. It's personified by vacuous and eternally perky breakfast morning show hosts Tyler Perry and almost-unrecognisable Cate Blanchett, who turn out to the be pointy end of a spear that's just as concerned with image over substance as the political class.

Throw in a Musk/Bezos-like squillionaire (Mark Rylance) who really calls the shots – to the extent that he can thwart a mass shuttle launch to counter the threat after it's taken place – and Kate and Randall find themselves in a world gone even madder than they realised.

Randall falls victim to it, starting an affair with the morning show host after she comes on far too strong for a mild-mannered man like him to resist, and Kate finds solace in the arms of a skater kid (Timothee Chalamet) who increasingly becomes her spirit animal the closer the apocalypse gets.

There's a lot in it, but there's something under the surface that put a lot of people off, a lot of the comment being about how much of a mess it was. I didn't see any of that – to me it was an effective satire on the state of the world.

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