[MOVIE REVIEW] Don’t Look Up checks all the boxes of a great movie


The plot of Don’t Look Up is simple: two astronomers discover a comet quickly rushing at earth, large enough to decimate the human species. The reaction from the United States government is reminiscent of reality.

Warning: this article contains spoilers.

Don’t Look Up begins with Ph.D. candidate Kate Dibiasky, played by Jennifer Lawrence, discovering a comet approaching earth. She alerts her professor Randall Mindy, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. They calculate that the comet is approximately nine kilometers wide, or as big as the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs, and will collide with earth in six months. One would assume that the world would take the concern seriously, but instead, the scientists are silenced and ridiculed. Netflix categorized the film as Drama. The director, Adam McKay, described it as a broad comedy in an interview with Variety. More specifically, Don’t Look Up is a political satire that takes a jab at the United States government and its response to climate change.
McKay, who is most well known for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, The Big Short, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, wrote and directed the film with the goal of writing a movie about the climate apocalypse. The comet is dramatic. It has a specific time that it will collide with earth. It will wipe out all living species the instant it collides with earth. Climate change and a comet aren’t equal dilemmas. Climate change doesn’t have a date and time that it will impose an impending doom that one could set a timer for. Climate change won’t completely wipe out every species and make the world inhabitable. However, scientists have said that we’re out of time, and we haven’t done anything. NASA said that if we completely stop emitting greenhouse gasses today, global temperatures would flatten and then plateau, but would still remain elevated for centuries. Scientists from the University of Arizona published a study saying that one-third of all animal and plant species will go extinct by 2070 if no action is taken against climate change. Still, the U.S. government has done very little to stop climate change. Some still believe that climate change isn’t real. Like the comet, you can not see climate change until it’s in your atmosphere. Dibiasky and Mindy struggled to get people to believe them until the comet was visible in the sky and the problem wasn’t fixable. You can not see climate change until there’s a natural disaster threatening your home or family.

But if you don’t have at least a small amount of anxiety about the climate collapsing (or the US teetering) I’m not sure Don’t Look Up makes any sense.

— Adam McKay

At the beginning of the movie, Dibiasky and Mindy are brought to the White House to explain the situation to President Janie Orlean, played by Meryl Streep. Before they enter the oval office, Dibiasky says, “Are we really about to tell the president of the United States that we have just over six months until humankind, basically every species, is completely extinct?”
Mindy replies with, “Yeah. That’s exactly what we’re about to do. Yeah.”
They explain the situation to Orlean, who eventually says, “Let’s just sit tight and assess.” The midterms are approaching and she doesn’t want the news to make her look bad. She doesn’t address the comet until her reputation is damaged and she finds a way for it to make her look good. Orlean is similar to former President Trump. She holds rallies for her supporters and even has hats that read “Don’t Look Up,” reminiscent of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats. Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, ending the U.S.’s promise to fight climate change. Orlean believes that the comet can be used to make a profit.
NASA developed a plan to displace the comet and stop it from colliding with earth. Peter Isherwell, played by Mark Rylance, CEO of BASH Cellular is based on any major tech CEO. At the last minute, he pulls the president aside telling her a new plan to mine the comet for resources before blowing it up in space. She immediately stops the original plan to favor the plan that could possibly make the most money. The excuse has been used that it would cost too much money to fight climate change.
Don’t Look Up was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The science denial that has occurred because of the pandemic only makes the satire more relevant. It doesn’t matter if scientists are saying that our actions are slowly killing our habitat, that there’s a virus that could kill your loved ones, or that there’s a comet hurtling towards earth and we only have six months to live. People don’t want to listen.
Watch Don’t Look Up because it is hilarious. The cast is amazing, and it’s the perfect combination of dramatic and a feel-good movie. McKay said it best, “Loving all the heated debate about our movie. But if you don’t have at least a small amount of anxiety about the climate collapsing (or the US teetering) I’m not sure Don’t Look Up makes any sense.”

Rated R
Netflix Original Film
Rating: ★★★★★