Don’t Look Up (USA, 2021) is a satire written, produced, and directed by Adam McKay. It stars an ensemble cast consisting of Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rob Morgan, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, and Meryl Streep among others. It started streaming on Netflix last Christmas Eve but it was only right after the Oscar nominations announcement that I watched it.
Having been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture for this year’s 94th Oscar Awards, I got intrigued.
The film starts with Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), a Michigan State University astronomy Ph.D. candidate, discovering an unknown comet that is approaching Earth. Her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) congratulates Kate and helps the team compute its trajectory. When Kate notices that the number is getting lower, Dr. Mindy called it a night but lets Kate stay. They discover that the comet measures 9 to 10 meters wide, is large enough to cause extinction, and will impact Earth in six months.
So they call the authorities to report their findings until it reaches NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office head, Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan). Dr. Oglethorpe immediately calls for Kate and Dr. Mindy to Washington, DC. to inform President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep).
However, at the White House, President Orlean and her Chief of Staff, Jason, who happens to be her son, say that they would sit down and assess the situation and to keep it confidential at the moment.
Frustrated over the President’s response, the three decided to leak the information to the media like the New York Times and the morning program, The Daily Rip hosted by Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry) and Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett). When the TV hosts treat the issue as frivolous, Kate loses her composure on live television, prompting a slew of memes and online mockery. Dr. Mindy, on the other hand, became famous because the public liked him for his looks.
But when President Orlean becomes involved in a scandal of a Supreme Court nominee, she diverts the public’s attention to the coming comet and approves of a project that will strike down the comet.
However, during the space mission launch, the President suddenly aborts it because Peter Isherwell, the CEO of BASH, a giant tech company, discovers that the comet contains minerals and ores that would cost millions of dollars. This will provide more income to the government and create more jobs. Thus, the President agrees to commercialize the comet destruction.
Put on the sidelines, Kate tries to mobilize public opposition to the scheme while Dr. Mindy is appointed as National Science Advisor. This created a division among those who believe in the alarm and those who believe in the jobs the comet will create soon.
However, Dr. Mindy discovers that Isherwell’s plan is not peer-reviewed by scientists and questions the technology if it could really break up the comet. This made Isherwell angry. Out of frustration, Dr. Mindy rants on live television and criticizes President Orlean for downplaying the impending catastrophe, and questions the public’s indifference.
But when Dr. Mindy and Kate see the comet visible in the sky, they reunite and rally the people to look up. However, President Orlean encourages the people in her midterm proclamation rally not to look up. Thus, the title of the movie.
The film is a satire, meaning it provides a serious socio-political commentary in a form of comedy. What makes satire and parody not appreciated is when the viewers are not familiar with the original source material.
In this case, we have three scientists who already sounded the alarm but the government and the media downplayed it despite the glaring scientific evidence. The government, the media, and the social media did not take it seriously or if ever they did, it was already too late.
President Orlean reminds me of Clinton and Trump. Jason Orlean reminds me of Ivanka Trump. Peter Isherwell reminds me of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk combined. Jack Bremmer and Brie Evantee remind me of Ryan Seacrest (or Michael Strahan) and Kelly Rippa. I may say that the actors who portrayed these characters have done a good job in making a satirical impression of the real-life characters. However, after seeing Ariana Grande playing a celebrity, I felt that she was put in a celebrity stereotype.
And because it’s a satire, the funny elements hit the right spots. However, I was bothered a little bit by a few sudden cuts to the next scene.
Not only that, at first the film lost me after the White House scene as if it didn’t glue my attention wholly. However, the next day, I decided to watch it in full and appreciated it. It received mixed reviews from critics during its theatrical release. But recently, it received four nominations at the 94th Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
That being said, I’ll rate this film 4 out of 5 stars.