What would you do if a huge comet was blazing a path towards Earth, guaranteeing extinction in six months’ time? Surely it would be more than “sit tight and assess” - the choice made by President Orlean (Meryl Streep) after listening to astronomers Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) tell of their terrifying discovery.
To be fair, she has more pressing things to deal with – her nominee for the Supreme Court has just been outed as a former porn actor and there’s a photo of her vagina on his phone. The imminent destruction of the planet will just have to wait...
Channelling his fury at the inaction towards climate change into this star-studded satire – supporting roles go to Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Timothee Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Himesh Patel, Melanie Lynskey and Ariana Grande – Adam McKay here retires the frenzied, noisy audiovisual stylings of The Big Short and Vice.
But that doesn’t make the ride any less rollicking. Don’t Look Up plays its satire broad and brash (think Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove) as it hurtles along like… well, a blazing comet. Mindy and Dibiasky go to the press to get their alarming news out there, and the public respond accordingly – labelling him an AILF (Astronomer I’d Like to F...) and turning her into a flurry of cruel memes because her savage fringe and straight-talking attitude see her dismissed as a militant crackpot.
But this division is only the start: the public aggressively splits into believers and deniers, with chanting hordes taking their cue from the DON’T LOOK UP! edict emblazoned on Orlean’s cap.
For a movie about the end of the world, Don’t Look Up, a handful of images aside, is narrowly focused on America. But it might have been a mess to do otherwise, and McKay is clearly processing some of the political horror shows that the White House has hosted from Nixon on, with Trump’s shadow looming largest.
“I think this whole administration has lost its f---ing mind!” yells DiCaprio’s Dr. Mindy, then appears on national TV to tell a muppet that POTUS is a sociopath. It’s one of a string of snort-laughter-out-your-nose moments, in a satire so gaudy, OTT, and stark-raving mad it plays, in these tumultuous times, like social realism.