'Don't Look Up' review: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence headline a smart satire

WION Web Team
New DelhiWritten By: Shomini SenUpdated: Dec 24, 2021, 05:42 PM IST


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'Don't Look Up' is a glaring wake up call. Not only does it poke fun at the hype culture that exists thanks to social media these days but it also talks of climate change and the imposing threat on humanity.

Adam McKay's star-studded satire 'Don't Look Up' is a glaring wake up call. Not only does it poke fun at the hype culture that exists thanks to social media these days but it also talks of climate change and the imposing threat on humanity. But above, all the film makes you look within and wonder if we, as a race, are really worth saving. 

Headlined by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence who play astronomers, the film is a wry, satirical take on how when the crisis of epic level strikes mankind, no one really knows how to fix it. Michigan state scientist Dr Randall Mindy(DiCaprio)  and PhD student Kate Dibiasky (Law) are suitably excited one night when they discover a comet. Their excitement in hours turns into fear as they realise the comet is coming straight at Earth which can lead to complete destruction of mankind. 

With the help of the NASA chief, they manage to get an appointment with the President of the United States Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep), who after making them wait for a day, finally is willing to devote 20 minutes of her time to the concerned scientist. She and her son Jason(Jonah Hill), who is the Chief of Staff have other things to worry about like leaked nude photos sent to a probable cabinet advisor, the mid-term polls etc. They hear the panic-stricken scientists, agree to consult scientists who are from Ivy colleges, and 'assess and sit tight' for the moment. 

It's only after Dibiasky has a showdown on live TV where she and Dr Mindy are invited to talk about their discovery - but keep things light- that people get up and take notice but not in the way the two scientists intended to. Mindy soon becomes the hot scientist and a face of social media campaigns for the government and Dibiasky becomes a meme. 

The time is limited and the state must act soon to devise a way to divert the comet. The operation is launched with much fanfare but is soon aborted as the main sponsor of the program, a tech guru with bizarre quirks (Mark Rylance) decides to use untapped minerals from the comet for scientific purposes. The world is sold by his idea even as Mindy and Dibiaski roll their eyes and cry hoarse that the idea still not going to help the world from extinction. At one point as the tech guru explains the billions of dollars that can be earned out of extracting the minerals, Dr Mindy exasperatedly says "what's the use of so much if we are all going to die?" He is of course thrown out soon after making such a comment. 

McKay takes references from the current scenario, where everything turns into a hashtag and the obsession to opinionate on social media and turns it upside down. All his characters have exaggerated reactions to the mayhem that is about to descend on earth. There is a midterm poll, that the President cannot afford to lose, and hence wants to go with whatever the main financier, the tech guru billionaire is pelting, the working class to wants to agree as they are interested in the jobs that the comet and extraction of minerals would bring in, then there is a very public break up and makeup of two pop stars going on amid this mayhem. Everyone has an opinion about it, and groups have been divided- some side the government and are being short-sighted while others (only a handful) believe that Dibiasky is correct. 

As time inches towards impending doom, no one really addresses the issue at hand and instead is propagating separate agendas. The film, made by McKay, is slightly presumptuous much like other Hollywood disaster films have been. It becomes a white people's problem which the world eventually catches on to and fights for (Bollywood actor Ishaan Khatter too makes a fleeting appearance as an online activist). The shortsightedness of Mckay is not just limited to him but time and again, Hollywood has made films on impending doom that may affect the world over and every time it has been the Americans who have risen up to the occasion to salvage the situation. 

However, McKay wins because he takes a wry take on the current scenario and makes a hilariously mockery of how systems run. So Streep characters are a mix of several terrible, incompetent world leaders rolled into one. The news anchors are keener to keep the news 'light' instead of asking pertinent questions. The head of the chief is keen to make quick bucks selling snacks from the White House pantry. 

Streep's President Orlean is insensitive, shortsighted and basically a terrible leader who has no idea what has hit her. Streep, the immensely talented actor, owes her part and is ably supported by actor Jonah Hill. The other actor who stands out is Mark Rylance as the weird tech billionaire who hates eye contact and can predict your death based on algorithms. Rylance's character is so bizarre and yet you can't stop watching him when he is there on the screen. The actor may just earn an Oscar nomination in the supporting role category for this film. 

McKay in fact has some of the best Hollywood actors in his film- each playing walk away from parts. There is Cate Blanchett as the popular TV show host who has eyes for the hot doctor Mindy. There is Timothy Chalamet playing Dibiasky's sympathiser in hopes to get laid. Ariana Grande makes her acting debut as a millennial popstar going through a break-up in public- which most are eager to lap up more than news on a killer comet. 

At 2 hours 40 minutes, the film is a bit of stretch but you will find yourself relating to the film. The pandemic has taken over our lives in the last two years and nearly no one has a coherent idea on how to tackle it. 'Don't Look Up' borrows from real life, exaggerates to a great level and shows us a very scary future if we don't react now. 

'Don't Look Up' is streaming on Netflix.