Given everything going on in the world right now, it’s no surprise that stories about the end of civilization as we know it have become increasingly popular. But even in a crowded field, Netflix film Don’t Look Up might offer the most accurate depiction so far of what the apocalypse might look like.
What might be surprising, however, is how funny the end of the world can be.
Written and directed by Academy Award winner Adam McKay (The Big Short, Vice), Don’t Look Up casts Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as a pair of astronomers — professor and student, respectively — who discover a massive asteroid on a collision course with the Earth. Their efforts to warn humanity of this extinction-level event end up stalled by a parade of polling-obsessed politicians, traffic-hungry news outlets, greedy corporations, and a populace willing to ignore science and their own eyes in support of their ideological leaders.
Basically, it’s a recipe for disaster made entirely of all-too-familiar ingredients.
It’s also a brilliantly scripted, wonderfully acted, and depressingly realistic satire of the environment America currently finds itself in, and the threat it poses not just to the country, but to the future of humanity.
Strength in numbers
Joining DiCaprio and Lawrence in the film’s cast is an all-star ensemble that includes three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) as Republican U.S. President Janie Orlean, whose political ambition outweighs her common sense, and Rob Morgan (Mudbound) as veteran scientist Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) portrays tech oligarch Peter Isherwell (an amalgam of Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, among others of that ilk), while Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) and Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman) play a pair of eternally chipper, Good Morning America-style daytime news program hosts.
The supporting cast is filled out with Jonah Hill as President Orlean’s smarmy son and chief of staff, along with relatively brief roles for Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Himesh Patel, Michael Chiklis, and Chris Evans, among other familiar faces (and voices).
It’s a crowded cast, certainly, but the film does a nice job of keeping its focus on the rollercoaster journey of Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) and Ph.D. student Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence), who find themselves shocked at every turn by apathetic responses to what could very well be the most important news in humanity’s history. The dramatically different ways each character handles those responses — Mindy with submissive, work-from-within optimism, and Dibiasky with burn-it-all down outrage — form the crux of the story’s narrative, as they each grapple with the most effective ways to deliver the mother of all bad news to a world that can’t be bothered with it.