Don't Look Up (2021)
“Don’t Look Up” stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothee Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep. Released on December 10, 2021, the film has two astronomers attempting to warn humanity of an approaching comet.
The film was written and directed by Adam McKay, who also directed films such as “Anchorman”, “Talladega Nights”, “The Other Guys”, “The Big Short”, and “Vice”. If the coronavirus isn’t enough to wipe out the human race, maybe a huge life-threatening space rock will. The holiday season was chock full of things that sought to disrupt our Christmas celebration, such as the multiverse, heartless humans, gentlemen spies, and even the Matrix. Today, I am adding an incoming comet to that list, thanks to Adam McKay. Since his shift towards dramatic territory in 2015, the filmmaker has delivered a couple of distinctive fact-based comedy dramas that land him in the awards race, even though they’re far from masterpieces, primarily 2018’s “Vice”. McKay’s next film goes for a more satirical approach as he depicts the climate crisis as only he knows how. Despite receiving some mixed reviews regarding its execution, the film became the latest project to land McKay in the awards circle once more. In addition to being named one of the best films of 2021 by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute, the film also earned numerous Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice nominations as of this writing. Seeing that I enjoyed some of McKay’s previous works, this accomplishment, along with its all-star cast, was enough for me to see what all the fuss was about. With that said, let’s see if this latest comedy marks another win for the Oscar-nominated director.
The story follows two astronomers: Astronomy professor Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) and his student Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence). They discover an unidentified comet that’s heading towards Earth during their usual studies. With only six months left until it collides with the planet, Randall and Kate must use every method known to man to warn everyone of their impending doom. For a film that’s over two hours long, the plot is about as basic as a simple math equation. However, there’s more to this story than just two scientists convincing a bunch of idiots about an incoming asteroid. The film also serves as a satirical allegory of social media, the government, and cultural indifference to climate change, which may resemble the COVID-19 situation in late 2019. Combine that with McKay’s sense of direction and humor, and you get something that Trey Parker and Matt Stone would’ve come up with for South Park. Regarding satirization, we all feel the need to poke fun of ourselves every once in a while. Some may feel offended by how they’re portrayed, while others just shrug it off and chuckle at the irony. I’m one of the people who prefer to have fun with satire if the material given has enough merits to earn my laughs and interest. Fortunately, that’s what “Don’t Look Up” did. As mentioned before, the film has been dividing critics and audiences left and right since its release. Half of the people praised it. The other half, not so much. If someone asks me which group I agree with regarding this movie, I would tell them that I agree with the people who liked it. I would even say that I was pleasantly surprised at how hilarious, entertaining, and thoughtful it was. While not entirely perfect, the film showcased McKay’s miraculous ability to shed light on some political commentary while providing a tongue-in-cheek depiction of humanity’s impending doom. Aside from its ironic portrayal of people’s indifference towards a specific crisis, the film delivered a highly entertaining yet impressively accurate representation of a scientist’s frustrating process of warning people about a climate breakdown. Now, I’m not into climate change as much as others, but I can easily compare this situation to how we’re being warned about impending diseases, mainly COVID-19. We’ve been told multiple times about it, yet we did nothing to ease the damage. That’s the only reason why I relate to this film so much. Those similarities remind me that people still have a lot of work to do to keep themselves alive. But, of course, there were other reasons why this film was another massive surprise for me, with one of them being the all-star cast. A lot of heavy-hitters were so talented in their roles that it’ll take forever for me to list them all, so I’m just going to highlight the ones that I enjoyed watching the most. Leonardo DiCaprio was unsurprisingly magnetic and riveting in his role as Randall Mindy, which could show possible signs of him getting another Oscar nomination. Maybe even another Oscar win? Jennifer Lawrence made a return to acting after her short hiatus, and I got to tell you, she still got it. Regarding her performance as Kate, she delivered several moments in her comedy and drama that prove how talented she is when given suitable material to work with. Jonah Hill still nailed his comedic chops as Jason Orlean, and Meryl Streep was an absolute gem as the President. Another reason was Adam McKay himself. Regarding his direction and script, I can quickly tell that McKay had a lot to say in his satire, even though some jokes can prove to be iffy for some detractors. More importantly, the filmmaker managed to balance this commentary with its black comedy tone and visual effects without making specific moments feel too jarring. The comedy aspect was one of my favorite parts of “Don’t Look Up” because of the well-written dialogue and the irony of humanity’s idiocy. It was hysterical, it was on point, and it was catastrophically enjoyable. Unfortunately, what kept it from being a perfect movie in my eyes was the editing. This film marked the latest collaboration between McKay and editor Hank Corwin, following “The Big Short” and “Vice”. Compared to those films, the editing in “Don’t Look Up” was pretty awkward to witness, especially when it comes to the transitions. They sometimes just cut to the next scene while people are talking, and it took me out of the film so many times. It’s a distracting flaw that I fear may also bother specific viewers. Despite this issue and its two-hour-plus runtime, both McKay and Corwin did what they could to keep the pace as lively as possible.
Overall, “Don’t Look Up” is a near-brilliant satirization of humanity’s stupidity and media indifference to the crisis at hand. While the editing can be as frustrating as people’s negligence towards their impending demise, the film nonetheless handled the balance between satire and social commentary to a satisfying degree. With its excellent cast, McKay’s direction, a worthy screenplay, and sharp wit, “Don’t Look Up” is the filmmaker’s best movie in his career. It’s a shame that I didn’t watch it earlier before I started my top ten best list, but hey, better late than never. If you liked McKay’s previous movies and have a Netflix account, this film is worth checking out, and remember, when in doubt, always listen to the scientists.
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