Don’t Look Up

Written by Taylor Baker


Adam McKay leapt into our home viewing shelves in the late 2000s with his numerous film team-ups with previous Gary Sanchez business partner and creative collaborator Will Ferrell in entries like Anchorman, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights. McKay has since become a more serious-minded director and continues down a creative path of socio-political commentary. Which he’s delved into in The Big Short and Vice. His newest film Don’t Look Up attempts satiristic black comedy about the potential death of humanity. It is unfortunately one of the most stacked with talent, visually uninteresting, and bitterly reductive films I’ve seen in years.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dr. Randall Mindy a professor at a University in Michigan who oversees a graduate candidate named Kate Dibiasky(Jennifer Lawrence). Kate locates a foreign body traveling near our sun, and while DiCaprio is performing calculations Lawrence asks why the numbers are going down. Pointedly indicating that the meteor is traveling toward us. After reporting their discovery the duo is called to Washington D.C. to present their findings to President Orlean(Meryl Streep).

The film then begins to center on hyperpartisanship. With McKay and Sirota equating the right as misled sheep who won’t look up, and the left with rational scientific-minded humans of varying moral character. It’s a preposterous reduction that seemed at first to be a joke. But spending over an hour within the negativity of the world McKay co-created with Guardian journalist David Sirota it’s clear that the unearnest and lopsided caricature wasn’t presented in this manner by accident.

Cinematographer Linus Sangren is reduced to a competent presentation of stock choices made in similar settings before, rather than inspiring images, or tonally intriguing pieces that stir the viewer through their composition. Feats which he’s managed in recent projects such as First Man, No Time to Die, and La La Land. It’s likewise a poor entry in the work of editor Hank Corwin whose worked with Malick on The New World, The Tree of Life, and Song to Song. Each of which leaned heavily on editing as an essential part of the filmmaking process.

The primary issue is what’s on the page. This type of reductivity can lead to comedy in careful hands but neither McKay nor Sirota knew how to thread the needle. Don’t Look Up is a failure, hopefully, one that all involved can improve from.

Don’t Look Up Trailer

Don’t Look Up is available in limited theatrical release on 12/10 and on Netflix 12/24.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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