Directed by: Adam McKay
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett, and Timothee Chalamet
Adam McKay, is one of those rare Hollywood filmmakers, who manages to find comedy in the darkest of places, and in the strangest of times. So, it is no surprise that he’d find humour in a film where the world, as we know it, is about to come to an end. Even though it’s a disaster movie, and might get clubbed alongside ‘Armageddon’, ‘Deep Impact’ or even ‘Independence Day’ in listicles done sometime in the future, ‘Don’t Look Up’ is a one-of-its-kind movie that manages to combine satire and critique on several current aspects of modern life, all in the garb of a big-scale disaster movie.
What’s It About?
The premise is pretty straightforward. Dr Randall Minty (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Dr Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discover a comet headed towards the earth, which they say will destroy the planet and every living form on it in six months. As upstanding citizens of America, and as every American film in this category shows, of the world as well, the two meet the American President, Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep), to urge her to “do something about it”.
But here’s where ‘Don’t Look Up’ gets different from the other movies. President Orlean is not like President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) from ‘Independence Day’, to take the battle head-on. She does make a good rousing speech though, not as emphatic as Whitmore. The only problem is that she doesn’t really realise the seriousness of the situation, in a very Mckay dark humour style, till her comments about poor, go viral on social media, and she has to save her image for the upcoming elections.
Dr Minty and Dr.Dibiasky constantly find themselves caught between wanting to warn the public of the impending doom and being rubbished off by the authorities themselves, after a Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), tech giant (which will remind many of Elon Musk), presents his side through various government-funded ads and news programmes that the comet is nothing but an opportunity to make more money.
The two good doctors are not exactly larger-than-life characters, unlike Will Smith or Bruce Willis, heroes who will save the world. But instead, they are flawed and human, and frankly frustrated at how authorities and others in power positions, exploit such situations, for their own benefit, with little regard for anyone else. Fame interestingly hits both of them in mysterious ways, and they both deal with it in a typical, slightly eccentric fashion.
Star performances, do take a script that has brilliant intentions, but apart from Dr Minty and Dr Dibiasky, the other actors are reduced to mere caricatures, which feels a bit out of place, especially considering the film was rooted in reality and humanity. Of course, there’s nothing like too much comedy, but those jokes where Chief of Staff, Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill), who is also the son of the President, says prayers for “dope stuff”, were avoidable. News reporters Jack Bermmer (Tyler Perry) and Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett), in their attempt to sound like upbeat morning-show hosts, end up satirising the characters. Only Quentin (Timothee Chalamet), a deeply but secretively religious skater boy, manages to look real and human, thanks to his sweet intentioned impulsiveness, and stays in the memory, longer.
It might look like, it’s a pretty unfunny premise. But that’s the beauty of this film, or any other film by Adam McKay. Narrating aspects of modern human lives which are absurd through humour and satire, is definitely an art. And Adam McKay is a master at it!