Don’t Look Up is a brilliant film, simultaneously functioning as both apt socially-charged drama and biting dark comedy. Filling his movies with top-tier talent has always been a trademark of director Adam McKay (see: The Big Short, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), and this one is no exception. An outstanding ensemble cast pads out every hilariously off-color scenario with glee. The real scene-stealers and MVPs though are the central astronomers played by Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio. Exploding with political overtones and harsh criticism of our inherent obliviousness, Don’t Look Up may indeed prove to be divisive.
It is a day like any other when Kate (Lawrence) comes upon a miraculous discovery—a comet orbiting within our solar system. Excited to reveal what she has found to fellow astronomer, Randall Mindy (DiCaprio), he is not quite as thrilled as Kate when he draws a terrifying conclusion from the scenario: this comet is destined to collide with the earth in an “extinction level event!” Naturally, the first reaction is to take things directly to the White House. Madame President Orlean (an absolutely stunning Meryl Streep) is completely disinterested, claiming she has faced numerous apocalyptic warnings and nothing ever comes of them. “Sit tight and assess” is the name of the game here. Orlean is content with doing absolutely nothing imminently to combat the impending doom, brushing off the promise of its arrival in “6 months and 14 days.”
What can one do when the White House shoos you away? The next stop is to go to the press—the New York Herald picks up their story. This leads Kate and Mindy to the Daily Rip, a light and fluffy talk show steered by hosts Brie (a nearly unrecognizable Cate Blanchett) and Jack (Tyler Perry). Mindy is a nervous wreck before the broadcast, while Kate seems more calm and collected, but the hosts make a joke out of the segment. Kate snaps, screaming that “we’re all 100% sure going to die.” This is only a taste of the media circus that eventually sparks from the first meme birthed from Kate’s breakdown. Is there any way to get the public to care that they have only six months left to live?
I honestly did not have the highest hopes going into this movie—I borderline-hated McKay’s last two films, Vice and 2015’s The Big Short. However, around every corner I was impressed by the sharpness of the script and the bizarre mania and realistically-tinged reactions of the general public. Some of these characters care more about commercialism and the resources the comet will provide rather than the damage it will do to the Earth. The actors all embrace the satire with open arms. A trio of fantastic performances in DiCaprio, Lawrence, and Streep color the humor on the strength of their portrayals. Don’t Look Up has scene-stealing roles from all of the side players, too, including a trailer-trash skater version of Timothee Chalamet, raging racist hero Colonel Ben Drask (Ron Perlman), and vapid manatee-obsessed pop singer Riley Bina, who is of course played by superstar Ariana Grande.
What director Adam McKay has created here is to be commended. I find it very surprising that the script was written during the pandemic, as it adequately dives into an unparalleled version of America that urges the audience not to “look up.” It turns the side of those who refuse to look as practically cartoonish. I had a feeling where the movie would end, and even then, I was truly only half right. One of the best scenes comes during the credits, and marks a hilariously shocking final crescendo, so be sure not to miss it!
Don’t Look Up comes crashing to Earth when it debuts in select theaters and Netflix on Friday, December 24th.
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