Back in the 1960s, Stanley Kubrick crafted the brilliant classic Doctor Strangelove to put the current political zeitgeist under the microscope. The film plays as a comedy, but the stakes are extremely high throughout, especially by the time the credits roll.
The same can be said for Don’t Look Up, a fantastic new film by Adam McKay (Vice, The Big Short) that turns its lens on current American culture as we try and survive catastrophe after catastrophe. The film takes a look at what would happen today, right now, if we knew a comet was going to wipe out all of humanity.
Most films would play it like Armageddon or Deep Impact making it look like everyone in power would do absolutely everything they would to stop it. But, let’s face it, we’re in that place anymore. COVID has shown that even when faced with certain, scientifically proven facts, many will just ignore the problem hoping that it will go away on its own.
But an extinction-level event won’t just go away. Through the eyes of Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his student Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) both of whom made the discovery, they desperately try to get people to listen to the facts in a world that just isn’t listening anymore.
Along the way, they get sucked into the world of politics and media hype. DiCaprio, who deserves an Oscar for his performance as a Michigan astronomer, loses control of the situation and literally ends up in bed with the enemy. Lawrence isn’t so lucky and gets chewed out by the internet meme machine turning her into a pariah.
The film itself takes aim at everyone, sometimes not so subtly. Meryl Streep takes the role of the far too cavalier president that has hired her son (Jonah Hill) as Chief of Staff. It takes minutes before you realize they are meant to be stand-ins for the Trumps and they both play the role beautifully.
By the end, it is clear this is more about humanity’s response to COVID than the meteor, but the message comes through loud and clear. Unless we do something, like actually listen to scientists and drown out media hype, humanity is most likely doomed.
Adam McKay deserves a ton of credit for crafting such a masterpiece that is apparently already polarizing audiences. I get the feeling this will be seen as a cult classic years from now once we’ve had time to properly appreciate it. We’re still in the center of the madness just as Kubrick was when he made Doctor Strangelove. Time, and hindsight, will solidify Don’t Look Up as a new classic