DON’T LOOK UP (2021)

  • Platform: Netflix
  • Release Date: 24/12/2021
  • Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill
  • Director: Adam McKay

“Don’t Look Up” is bonkers and out of its mind but has a firm grasp of what it is

— Ambar Chatterjee

Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) discover a new comet that they realize is headed for the earth. The calculations reveal that the comet will hit earth in 6 months and going by its size, it is apparent that the impact will trigger cataclysmic natural disasters across the planet and result in the extinction of the human race. Kate and Mindy get in touch with the people who are supposed to do something about it and save earth from annihilation. Shockingly, they instead get wrapped in a bizarre drama involving political maneuverings, marketing gimmicks, dismissive attitude of people towards a looming disaster, and above all single-minded focus of the powerful few on financial gains. This invariably pushes earth towards imminent doom. What happens next is what Don’t Look Up is all about.

Adam McKay has a style of his own that is very verbose albeit laced with healthy doses of dark humor and witty dialogues between characters. He brings in his trademark style to this story that not only suits his style of filmmaking but also gives him a chance to go bonkers with the humor and also the amount of sarcasm that he infuses in his characters and humor. I have seen endless reviews for Don’t’ Look Up criticizing either his over-the-top storytelling or the obnoxiously embarrassing depiction of world leaders and their attitude towards problems facing the planet. Many found the treatment and presentation of the plot points crass and unbelievable and felt that it needed a much more subtle approach to the storytelling. I feel that if this film was any different than what it is made out to be, it wouldn’t be an Adam Mckay film anymore. Also, if this story was dealt with in any other way it would either turn out to be the next “Armageddon” or would be something that would be awfully boring and underwhelming.

Mckay not only succeeds in his storytelling but also conjures up individual sequences that might seem unnecessary in a larger scheme of things and doesn’t make much of an impact on the outcomes of the story but individually either makes you scratch your head in disbelief or makes you roll on the floor laughing saluting the director’s wit and rambunctious imagination. Both these aspects of the individual bits worked for me and I didn’t mind re-watching them and also pointing them out to my friends who might have missed the fun. The film makes it a point to address each pillar that constitutes the structure of democracy and blasts it for its contribution to the failure of the concept of democracy and living well for oneself and others. The worst is reserved for the world leaders, the money monsters, and the media that one must agree to have the most impact on the lives of the citizen.

The biggest question would be how Mckay achieves this and the answer is through his characters who are representative of each of these classes. The characters in the film are different variations of bad, incompetent, submissive or tragically unaware of the world around them. Randall Mindy is someone who knows everything about imminent danger. He does raise his voice a few times to make himself heard but quickly slips back into limbo when he starts getting importance from the White House and is also swept up in a whirlwind extramarital affair with someone out of his league. Kate has her heart in the right place and she knows about the comet and its strength just as much as Mindy but she is short-tempered, easily frustrated, and was too over the top to be taken seriously by the people. Instead, her histrionics make her a butt of jokes for the country. While her predicament can be related to, she should have been more responsible and made an effort to be more grounded in order to make her voice heard and maybe make some difference.

The President of the United States played by Meryl Streep is the president because of the many acquiescences that she done to be in that position. This stark truth forces her to do things against her own and her learned colleague’s better judgment that ultimately leads to some bizarre situations. Her son and the Secretary of State played by Jonah Hill is a coke-addict who copies dialogues from Saving Private Ryan and puts them on the speech of a General who is about to embark on a mission that is destined to change the fate of humanity. This not only goes down to show how much importance he gives to his work but also documents his educational and moral bankruptcy.  

To top it all up, there is the tech-mogul who is also the 3rd richest human being ever, Peter Isherwell (a sensational Mark Rylance). He is someone who believes that he and his tech are above lesser evolved humans and that he knows better and more than the humans know about themselves. He not only proves to be a bigger and more complex challenge than the raging comet but also keeps underlining the fact that whatever he is doing is for the resurrection of the society from unconquerable evils like poverty, lack of resources, unequal distribution of wealth, etc.  

Each of the actors brought their own characteristic mannerisms and comic timing to the respective characters. I cannot dwell enough on how important it was for each of these characters to be as close to the real actors as possible so as to have a semblance of their mannerisms portrayed through the character’s own traits and eccentricities. Mckay hits the sweet spot with each of the actors. While we see glimpses of all that we love about the endearing people playing the different characters, there is also a sense of surprise and thrill in everything that they are shown doing as their respective characters develop and make their journey through their story arcs. This is a film that is dependent on the dialogues, exchanges, and performances of the actors to hold on to its audiences. This is the department that the film scores heavily in and ensures that it is an engrossing affair from start to finish.

The film is right up there in terms of its technicalities. The editing and the cinematography are two aspects of it that I loved. The relentless editing not only helps in conveying the breakneck nature of the content and the predicament that the characters are in but also helps convey a sense of breathlessness that comes with the problem that the characters are faced with. It will be difficult to say if the cinematography complemented the editing or vice versa but one thing that is for sure is that both aspects of it worked in unison to conjure up a compounded impact.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Look Up and I believe that it will appeal to most of the people of my generation. It is the kind of film that might require multiple viewings to sink in all that content and drama and that is just one more aspect of it for which I appreciated it even more. Films today hardly have the caliber to surprise or entertain the audiences on repeat viewing and to have a film as outrageous as this to make me feel like watching it a couple of times more was gratifying. Give this film a try. You will not regret it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

   

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