Don’t Look Up is now showing on Netflix.
No sub-genre of films seems to divide audiences more than satire. After all, its very purpose is to make us uncomfortable by holding a mirror to our behaviours, activities, likes and dislikes, in turn, allowing us to face the sheer ridiculousness of human behaviour and history while making us question the future of humanity. The divisive relationship between critics, audiences, and satire are there for all to see. Just look at the reviews of Dr Strangelove, Jojo Rabbit or The Death of Stalin, and you will find an array of opinions ranging from “I loved it” to “I hated every minute of it.” But isn’t that the point of satire? Its mission, to uncover the very darkest corners of human behaviour and place them on screen for all to see.
Therefore I do not doubt that in writing this review of Adam McKay’s new apocalyptic satire Don’t Look Up, some will no doubt disagree. But that’s fine; that’s what satire is all about!
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Let’s start with one fact we can all agree on; the world is pretty fucked up! I know this may sound overly negative but look at the past twenty years. In that time, we have all become transfixed by the mobile phone and social chatter that sits in our pockets 24 seven; in fact, most people can’t even pull themselves away from it for two hours in a cinema. And yet, with all our connectivity, instant news and viral videos, the world is becoming a lonelier place, with ever-decreasing mental health. In addition, politics has disappeared down a rabbit hole of culture wars, soundbites and lies. While at the same time, our media has become transfixed by focus groups, instant judgements, the court of public opinion and an obsession with celebrity.
This is a world where we regularly cancel people and delete them due to a single unsubstantiated allegation or a tweet we disagree with. We then quickly elevate someone new to celebrity status in their place before cancelling them too when we get bored. It’s a world where slogans form political standpoints and policy, whether “make America great again” or “get BREXIT done”. It’s a world where opinions and values come from a single headline rather than any investigation of the truth.
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In truth, we all buy into this world, and we all add to its continuation by believing that “this is progress.” Therefore, is it any wonder we cannot find solutions to our biggest problems, from climate change to the continuing pandemic? After all, nation-building, one-upmanship and wealth have become the defining traits of our world – our ability to work together as one human race, no longer a priority in a world of walls, divisions, haves and have-nots. If all this sounds rather bleak, then Don’t Look Up probably isn’t the right film for you, because it’s within these very discussions that Adam McKay’s brilliant and cutting satire finds its voice.
McKay’s star-studded comedy is a sharp dissection of politics, human behaviour and an obsession with soundbites and social media. And while penned long before the global pandemic, our experience during the last two years feels all too real in the narrative. Don’t Look Up utilises some of the finest talents in dissecting American and western societies relationship with news, science and social media. Here, all three are twisted and contorted to suit the factions of our modern society. Factions encouraged, developed and emboldened by a political system obsessed with the mechanics of nationalism, wealth creation and divide and rule – the result, a state-of-the-world address and a cutting exploration of politics and apparent social development.
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Some will no doubt hate it, while others will love it, but that’s what McKay is aiming for. So I guess you are wondering why I have not provided a synopsis of the film and its story? Well, think Deep Impact and Armageddon rolled up with The Social Network and Vice, and you pretty much have the result. Love it, or hate it, I don’t mind, but watch it and decide for yourselves whether our modern world is one of progress and hope or selfishness, greed and social division. McKay’s movie is bold, daring and intelligent filmmaking that asks you to question the world we have created and the world we want to be; it is satire at its most bold and divisive, something we should all celebrate.
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Don't Look Up (2021)
McKay’s movie is bold, daring and intelligent filmmaking that asks you to question the world we have created and the world we want to be; it is satire at its most bold and divisive, something we should all celebrate.