Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep
Director: Adam McKay
Running Time: 138 mins
Don’t Look Up is an American film about two scientists who discover a comet which is definitely set to destroy the Earth in just over six months. But despite alerting the people, the media and the highest offices in the land, their concerns are continuously ignored.
It’s more than clear what Don’t Look Up is trying to say. An allegory for declarations of the dangers of climate change and other threats falling on deaf ears across society, the film is filled to the brim with passion for its core message. As for the rest of the movie? There’s not all that much to write home about.
From writer-director Adam McKay, of Vice, The Big Short and most memorably Anchorman fame, Don’t Look Up is a rather frustrating mess of a movie. It occasionally hits the mark when it really goes all out with its central message, but it’s a film that’s severely lacking in interesting characters, clever comedy, and genuine drama from start to finish.
Things do pick up in the slightly more serious and sobering second half of the film, but Don’t Look Up gets off to a dreadful start early on. While the movie has clearly spent more than enough money on securing the biggest names in Hollywood, a whole lot less attention has gone into its screenplay.
Beyond the overarching themes, Don’t Look Up is a pretty empty movie throughout. It has a few lacklustre goes at making you care about the characters as people, rather than simply vehicles for its central message, but it’s pretty difficult to sympathise with or genuinely care about anybody on screen here, simply because there’s so little time spent on making them captivating human personalities.
That’s despite a painfully overlong two hour and eighteen minute runtime. And even more bewilderingly, the poor screenplay and total lack of interesting character drama comes despite one of the most staggeringly talented casts you’ll ever see.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Rob Morgan, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet and a bucketload more A-listers are all brilliant value for the film’s marketing push, but almost none of them are operating at the well-known height of their abilities.
DiCaprio, despite his personal passion for the themes at play here, is disappointingly ordinary in the lead role. Jennifer Lawrence is largely the same, while the likes of Jonah Hill and Mark Rylance are comically bad in some of the film’s most vapid roles, struggling desperately to bring some life or charisma out of a generally awful screenplay.
The only person who’s really on form here is Cate Blanchett, whose devilishly devious performance as a glamorous but deceptive and superficial TV host is the highlight of the film, and strikes up a significant proportion of the laughs in Don’t Look Up.
And that’s one of the other big disappointments of this movie. Sure, if you want to have the message about climate change hammered home, then Don’t Look Up does the job perfectly well, but for a film with a lot of comedic talent both in front of and behind the camera, it’s depressing just how dull this movie is.
Its heavy-going runtime certainly does it no favours, but the combination of not-in-the-slightest-bit-subtle satire and pretty blunt comic dialogue throughout makes this much more of a slog than a clever, eye-catching comedy-drama.
The best moments of the movie come towards the end, when there’s a little bit more time spent on reflecting on the characters, the situation at hand, and its parallels with the real world. The differences between a meteor coming to destroy Earth and the threats of climate change are of course worlds apart, but the film’s commitment to pairing the two as an allegory ultimately makes Don’t Look Up a memorable watch.
Overall, though, I was hugely disappointed by Don’t Look Up. Despite the passion and commitment to its central themes, this is a film that almost impossibly squanders some of the best talent working in Hollywood today. Despite a staggering cast of A-listers and a very big budget of $75m, Don’t Look Up is a depressingly ordinary film, with little in the way of laughs, captivating emotional drama, or sharp satire throughout. So, that’s why I’m giving Don’t Look Up a 6.7.