Adam McKay could well have taken fragments of daily life, edited them coherently, and he would have gotten the same script from Don’t Look Up (2021). What we are given in code of satire is nothing more than the harsh reality of our times. Between the lines of parody and humor we come across the decadent world of mass media, social networks, opportunistic politicians and self-proclaimed entrepreneurial gurus of technology and markets. What the speech proclaims, we know, we live it and even little matters to us.
This is not the first time that McKay has embarked on this path. In Vice (2018) he showed us the figure of Dick Cheney, one of the most influential politicians on the world stage. And with The Big Short (2015) he showed us the real estate crisis of 2005 in the United States from an unconventional perspective. In both films, the director displays a perfect handling of sarcasm to tell dense and heavy stories. His exaggerated characters accentuate reality and expose it without political correctness in another exercise of art imitating life.
Of comets, scientists, and social media
One day, astronomer Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a comet during her routine observation process. Excitement turns to concern when his supervisor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) determines that the trajectory of the celestial body would lead it to imminently impact our beloved planet Earth. The alerts of all the security organizations are turned on and in the blink of an eye the two astronomers are in the oval office in a meeting with the president of the United States to explain the seriousness of the situation.
Don’t Look Up takes off in full as Dibiasky and Mindy must take matters into their own hands and embark on a media pilgrimage to alert the world of the looming apocalypse as the powers that be trying to manipulate the truth and tycoon Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance) takes the opportunity to make a particular profit. That Isherwell, who is nothing more than a mixture of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, is one of the most decisive characters in the film. When the road is opened to attack the way in which social networks and television shape the discourse and decide what is said and how it is said, the film finds another vehicle to deliver the irony that reminds us that fiction falls short to reality.
This is the end
Even the music by Nicholas Britell (The Big Short, Moonlight) finds space to adjust to the satirical tone of the film and its bombastic and melodrama-laden notes remind us of all those films that herald the end of the world. Veteran Linus Sandgren (La La Land, No Time to Die) steps behind the lens to show us those close-ups of Dr. Mindy hyperventilating or Dr. Dibiasky losing control in front of the cameras to remind us of Peter Finch in Network (1976). But it also gives us more majestic shots such as those of the final sequences in the streets and later inside the house in that “last supper”.
A frenetic journey that makes us collide head-on with reality, that is Don’t look up.