‘Don’t Look Up’ movie review: Adam McKay’s savage satire aims for the sta— comets

With a fantastic ensemble cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and Jonah Hill among others, the black comedy makes for quite enjoyable viewing

It is hard to pick favourite actors or scenes from this satirical black comedy as there are so many of them. Written and directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short), Don’t Look Up tells the story of Kate (Jennifer Lawrence), doing her PhD in astronomy at Michigan State University. Kate discovers a comet heading for earth. Her professor, Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), calculating the trajectory of the comet, realises it is going to hit the earth in six months, annihilating all life.

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The two get in touch with NASA with the news, and are put on to Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), the head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office. He sets up a meeting with the President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep), who is not particularly interested.

Their attempts to get the news out via the media does not work though Kate’s meltdown on the talk show, The Daily Rip, hosted by Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry), goes viral.

While the two scream themselves hoarse about the earth coming to an end, the world seems only obsessed with pop star Riley Bina’s (Ariana Grande) relationship with DJ Chello (Scott Mescudi). Once the President realises doomsday is a good way to divert attention from a sex scandal she is embroiled in, she plays it for all it is worth.

Don’t Look Up

  • Director: Adam McKay
  • Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, Himesh Patel, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep
  • Story line: Two astronomers try to tell the sheeple that the world is about to end
  • Run time: 138 minutes

A soldier, Benedict Drask (Ron Perlman), is selected to divert the comet though Mindy mutters would it not be better to do it remotely. “Washington always needs heroes,” a pundit intones. The mission is aborted midway because tech billionaire Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance) discovers the comet is full of precious minerals. So, the new plan is to blow up the comet and mine the minerals.

The world is split into those urging people to look up and see the fast-approaching comet, and others who do not believe in the comet and insist that people not look up. Everything unfolds at warp speed on social media.

The performances by the ensemble cast breathe life into the characters; from Rylance’s tech guru to Streep’s smoking hot, opportunistic, narcissistic president. Jason (Jonah Hill) as the President’s son and Chief of Staff is hilarious, while Blanchett as shallow and hard-nosed Brie is a hoot.

DiCaprio effortlessly hides his golden good looks under an unfashionable haircut, beard and round glasses as the plaid-shirt-wearing, pill-popping, anxious Mindy, while Lawrence’s Kate, with even weirder hair, is a far cry from angsty, take-charge Katniss.

Timothée Chalamet makes for a sweetly-charming Yule, who becomes Kate’s fan after all the memes of her meltdown. Yule and Kate start a relationship after she returns home to Michigan. Himesh Patel plays Kate’s caddish boyfriend Phillip, who is looking to profit from her notoriety.

The small roles are also performed with élan from Perlman’s bluff and politically-incorrect Drask to Michael Chiklis as Dan Pawketty, news anchor on a conservative television show and Liev Schreiber as narrator for Bash, Isherwell’s company. There is also an Avenger as Devin Peters, an actor starring in a film called — you got it — Total Devastation, after news of the approaching comet goes public.

Don’t Look Up has mid and end-credit sequences like all good superhero movies. ‘Second Nature’ composed by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Nicholas Britell, which plays over the end credits sums up the awe and absurdity with the words— “When’s that Rapture… will there be merch?” If the tinsel and good cheer are too much for you this season, you could do well to sink your teeth into this savage satire.

Don’t Look Up is currently streaming on Netflix

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