Another night at the telescope for Kate Dibiasky, scanning the skies for data as she moves closer to her doctorate until she finds an anomaly, a fast-moving object which is swiftly determined to be a long period comet from the Oort Cloud falling sunward. Discussing it with her advisor, Doctor Randall Mindy, he calculates the orbit and is sufficiently alarmed to contact Doctor Teddy Oglethorpe of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office, who in turn escalates via the military to the White House.
Estimated at between five and ten kilometres across, Comet Dibiasky is set to impact in the Pacific Ocean in just over six months, triggering an extinction level event, with the only hope for survival a concerted global effort to deflect or destroy it, but mired in scandal President Janie Orlean is more concerned with mid-terms only weeks away, fearing bad news could cause her to lose the election. The trio of scientists determined to raise awareness, they are at first ignored then discredited, the evidence visible to the naked eye even as Orlean runs her campaign on the slogan “Don’t Look Up.”
A bitter satire of the toxic relationship between politics and the media in a dysfunctional world where the story is whatever will keep the masses from rioting and overthrowing their leaders and the truth is determined by whoever shouts loud enough, Don’t Look Up is directed by Adam McKay from a story co-written with David Sirota, positing an entirely feasible “end of the world” scenario where policy has become so distant from the guidance or oversight of qualified experts that it is dismissed because it does not play to the ego of power which refuses to acknowledge the possibility of defeat.
Starring Meryl Streep as President Janie Orlean and Jonah Hill as her son, Chief of Staff Jason Orlean, promoted far above his level of gross incompetence, on their side they have Mark Rylance as Peter Isherwell, the third richest man on the planet who sees the comet as raw materials to expand his technology empire, convinced that his untested scheme to mine its rare mineral and metallic riches will succeed because, surrounded by layers of supplicants to avoid direct interaction with the world, nobody has ever dared tell him otherwise, oblivious to anything which conflicts with his personal vision of utopia.
Against their massed power and influence stand Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as Mindy and Dibiasky, he prone to panic attacks and lacking assertiveness, she ridiculed for having uncool hair and becoming visibly upset when announcing the end of the world, mocked as an internet meme and made a non-person by the FBI at the behest of Orlean Junior when she continues to crusade against his directive of non-disclosure.
Cate Blanchett’s gossip channel anchor colluding with spoiled brat pop stars to stage manage pre-arranged breakups and makeups to boost ratings rather than address issues of substance lest disinterested viewers turn elsewhere for the brainless comfort of infotainment, Don’t Look Up is hilarious but uncomfortable viewing, the end state of a civilisation where unsupported opinion is given equal footing to evidence and a condemnation of the generation who had everything they wanted yet still craved more, refusing to pay the cost even as the rainforests burned.