Don’t Look Up (2021) (Netflix)- Review: Powerful Performances and Direction Help This Satire Thrive

Don’t Look Up (2021) (Netflix)- Review: Powerful Performances and Direction Help This Satire Thrive

Don’t Look Up (Netflix) Review: Directed by Adam McKay, and featuring an ensemble cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett, Timothee Chalamet, Chris Evans, Matthew Perry, and Ariana Grande; Don’t Look Up is a Netflix Original story about an impending apocalypse and the manner in which personal gain for the haves outweighs the needs of the have nots.

The film begins in Michigan where Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a N.E.O. and raises the alarm bells amongst her peers and Professor (Dr.) Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio). The ones in the know take it seriously and the White House trip beckons to inform the President about the imminent problem.

Ridiculed and dismissed, the scientists resort to the news and talk show appearances to inform the uninformed. An expected response to this would be opposing efforts to discredit; McKay’s script delves into this as well, which results in a slogan that grants this film its title. 

What is good about Don’t Look Up?

The performances help Don’t Look Up thrive. DiCaprio, in his second role since clinching the Academy Award in The Revenant, has an amazing turn as an anxiety-ridden professor. The scene of him calming himself in the washroom, assuring himself that he is here, is something that taps into the nervousness his character is going through at the time. As the film progresses, he has another intense scene at the TV studio that absolutely steals the show. It could get him yet another trip to the Dolby Theater as a nominee. 

Lawrence is the youngster who is frustrated with the sugar coating and wants things to be much more direct. Coming across as a firebrand and resembling Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, it is her character that thrives in the initial part of the film; particularly in the Oval Office. While her performance is strong, the meatier role essayed by Meryl Streep overshadows it.

As President Orlean, Streep steals the show with her character’s rhetoric and absolute disinterest in seeing the mid-term polls tank. At times you love Orlean and at times you hate Orlean: Streep played the role of a person in power to perfection. 

Mark Rylance as Peter Isherwell (a greedy billionaire) comes across as absolutely despicable and viewers may want to just zone out and not watch him when he pops up on the screen. 

Linus Sandgren’s cinematography shines as this film has a few memorable frames that will stick with the viewers long after they move to another film on Netflix. The scene of DiCaprio standing on the street and looking up into the sky is one astounding still. 

Adam McKay’s decision to go for closeups and the documentary-style presentation also works as it retains real-world implications to keep the audience attached to reality. Seals on the beach, bees, and birds at flowers, people praying all over the world are all things that do happen; besides the humans, they also fall under the have nots. Hank Corwin’s sharp edits also helped give the simultaneous perspective as well as enhanced Leonardo DiCaprio’s scene in the studio.

The usage of edits to feature news clippings, cutouts, TikTok videos, and a YouTube comments section helped satisfy cinephiles who prefer their films to be a reflection of the era. 

What’s not good in Don’t Look Up?

As is the case with ensembles, most of the cast is under-used. Timothee Chalamet is completely under-used in this film. A top-class actor, he is someone who just appears as a largely forgettable character. You may not even spot him in Don’t Look Up. One can even add Jonah Hill’s Jason Orlean (Chief of Staff) to this list. 

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The film was too packed. That’s what’s not good with Don’t Look Up. Or perhaps if that wasn’t the problem, then one could say that McKay should have handed them meatier roles. In retrospect, that may have resulted in too many leads. 

Science Fiction buffs may remain rattled as the science fiction element was just used as a stepping stone to get the satire and drama element. Even the science people were not doing science stuff, but that is a take on the world. Films are supposed to provide an escape! 

Verdict of Netflix’s Don’t Look Up

Don’t Look Up will get people interested in comets. The only known comet to planet earth is Halley’s comet that is sighted once every 75 years. That one goes around in its orbit and has obviously never struck the earth. It’s usually asteroids that come close, but Adam McKay opted to go for a comet in this film. That was quite refreshing and memorable, for this will stand out and not be compared to Armageddon. 

Don’t Look Up is a satire that thrived due to its powerful performances, its unique story, and the music. Ariana Grande may get an Oscar nod primarily as the Academy may want their return to their home base to be absolutely stacked.

Initially, her character of Riley Bina may have been included in the above subheading as someone just signed on to add star power to the cast. However, her Just Look Up was a smart move by the producers as it fit into the story and added star power to the film. Her song was also quite powerful. 

And once you get onto the film, and are hooked in by the premise, or the cast, or the performances; Nicholas Britell’s background score will keep you away from the back button. His genius lasts from the first scene right to the end credits as the music in the first scene permitted McKay to leave out the dialogues and let Britell enhance the fact that Dibiasky saw something troubling. 

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3 stars

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