Film Review: Don't Look Up

Author: Kristina Cooper

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Film Review: Don't Look Up

Despite its humour and satire, Kristina Cooper finds disaster movie Don't Look Up  with Leonardo DiCaprio almost an evangelistic film.

I am not a fan of disaster movies, so I was tempted to give the new record breaking  Netflix film  “Don’t Look Up”, directed and written by Adam McKay, a miss. I am glad I didn’t. The film, with a stellar cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Mark Rylance, tells the story of two back water astronomers who discover a rogue comet is headed for earth which will cause the extinction of the planet.  

Far from being an action fest, the film is rather a satire, which takes a swing at almost everyone – politicians, the media, celebrity culture and tech savvy billionaires – as the embattled scientists try to tell the world of the danger the planet is in.

Global warming scientists have seen the film as an allegory of the way the world is not listening to their message, but almost any threat could be substituted for the comet – and the way people respond differently to imminent disaster.

Compromise And Struggle To Get The Message Out

When the president (Meryl Streep) tries to diminish the problem because it is politically not expedient, the two protagonists, Dr Randy Mindy (DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), turn to the media to get the message out. But they find themselves as chat show fodder, expected to share their apocalyptic message in sound bites, squeezed in between the love lives of celebrity singers  and political sleaze scandals. “Keep it light”, says Brie (Cate Blanchett), the glamorous anchor woman.

The film also highlights the different ways DiCaprio and Lawrence’s characters respond to all this media attention and the compromises that are demanded.  For a time it seems that the president is going to take them seriously and a rescue mission to deflect the comet from hitting earth is proposed. But even this becomes a fiasco due the financial interests of an influential and creepy tech billionaire (Mark Rylance) who wants to harvest its valuable minerals.

People start to question if the comet really even exists. Division and conspiracy theories abound. Political rallies and fund raising rock concerts are organised promoting the different views. As the comet hurtles towards earth,  DiCaprio’s scientist realises what fundamentally matters to him and simply heads home. While some get drunk, and others are screaming with fear, DiCaprio gathers his friends and family together for a final meal.

Praying With Simplicity And Sincerity

Here to my amazement, led by a slacker youth, they end up praying with simplicity and sincerity that God will give them all the strength and courage to face whatever awaits them.

Given the biting tone of the rest of the film,  I didn’t see this coming at all. It’s only a fleeting moment, but it is there. The ending is also interesting. Some people do escape the holocaust, on a rocket – but such is the composition of the elite, that it is clear that diCaprio’s scientist, who has chosen to remain on earth, has chosen the better part.  

Ironically, despite its humour and satire, I found it almost an evangelistic film. It raises important questions and makes you think about what makes life worth living?   Director Adam McKay, who was once chief script writer of the influential Saturday Night Live,   said in a recent interview that although he was not a fan of organised religion,  if he heard that 25 people were getting together round a table to eat and pray, he “would be there in a heartbeat!” Maybe something to bear in mind as we think about how to share the gospel message of Christ’s love with our contemporaries.  

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