DON’T LOOK UP (2021) is a double dose of in-your-face satire

From writer/director Adam McKay comes Don’t Look Up, a sociopolitical satire packed full of heavy-handed messages and commentary on the way today’s society responds to global events. The narrative follows two astronomers who set off to warn the world that a comet is on a direct collision course with Earth and will wipe out all of mankind – only no-one reacts in the way they should.

Adam McKay isn’t a director I’m particularly fond of. His most recent projects haven’t interested me, and I didn’t enjoy The Big Short (2015) in the slightest. That being said, Don’t Look Up ended up being an enjoyable watch with a clear-cut goal that was executed well enough. It doesn’t take a genius to pinpoint the messages this film has set out to deliver – the sociopolitical theming is clear as day within every single scene. At times, the heavy-handed nature of the messaging can have an eye-roll effect, but once you get beyond the first act you become accustomed to the in-your-face approach the film is taking. The best thing about bringing this out right now is that anyone who has been conscious in the last two years is going to be able to understand what’s going on and why. The satirical angle is prominent throughout the entire film, which brings the occasional laugh and chuckle as you make those real-world connections.

As much as the very loud and extravagant approach to the satire is intentional, I’d have appreciated a little more subtlety in its commentary. It feels too much like Adam McKay is trying to hide a lacklustre disaster narrative behind the veil of a satire on current world events. If you strip away the real-world connections, you’ve got a shell of a story that doesn’t hold up in the same way. Having seen the film very recently, the novelty of the comedy and the impact of what it’s trying to say wears off really quick – leaving behind a film no-one is going to want to revisit. Incorporating the same satirical messages, just in a more subtle way, creates a balance that I would have certainly enjoyed more than what we got.

One element of The Big Short that I couldn’t stand was Hank Corwin’s editing – it felt overly choppy and awkward and didn’t do the narrative any favours. This time around, his editing is even more chaotic and choppy, but it services the story really well. Scenes are cut short by half a second, multiple awkward cuts are made within scenes, and it all contributes to giving off that anxious, nervous and desperate feeling that some of the characters are expressing. It’s a neat touch that is no doubt intentional, adding a tad to my overall enjoyment. As a whole, the technical aspects of the film are solid – it’s shot really well and has a good score that heightens both the comedic and more dramatic sequences within the film.

If you weren’t checking out the film for its satirical elements, you were certainly checking it out for the star-studded cast – including the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and more. As expected, none of them miss a single beat. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence are both brilliant across every scene, delivering every line of dialogue with such strength that it’s near impossible to take your eyes of them. DiCaprio especially has an interesting role in the film – it’s almost as if he’s playing a purely dramatic role inside a satirical film, which really makes him shine and stand out above the rest. I could go on naming all of the supporting cast that are great, but I’ll especially shoutout Mark Rylance and Meryl Streep who commit to the sheer ridiculousness of their characters and produce some hilarious satirical beats.

In the end, Don’t Look Up does a lot right, but could have done so much more. The story itself is just okay – dipping in and out of boring patches and feeling quite uneven in its pacing. It’s packed with so many highs and lows that it’s not always fun to follow. However, the satirical elements are so plentiful and relatable that they lead to a good amount of genuinely enjoyable sequences throughout the film. I’d have preferred something a little more subtle, but the in-your-face approach works well for the most part. Capped off with a brilliant A-list cast, there is enough to enjoy about Don’t Look Up to warrant a watch – especially if you’re a fan of a healthy dose of sociopolitical satire in your entertainment.


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