By Steve Guy
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Don’t Look Up, a grim warning about climate change

Issue 2786

Leonardo di Caprio and Jennifer Lawrence star

Don’t look Up directed and written by Adam Mckay is a film about the end of the world, at a time where climate change is steadily becoming a very real threat to humanity.

Despite its all star cast and high viewing figures, it has received mixed reviews from film critics and has provoked fierce debates on social media.

Some reviewers condemned the film as flimsy. Some even said it tried to condescend its audience into caring about the climate crisis.

Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw called Don’t Look Up a “145-minute Saturday Night Live sketch.”

But others, especially in the climate movement, were much more welcoming of the film in its depiction of world leaders who put profit over people.

Climate scientist Peter Kalmus wrote, “The movie Don’t Look Up is satire. But speaking as a climate scientist, it’s also the most accurate film about society’s terrifying non-response to climate breakdown I’ve seen.”

Here Steve Guy explores some of the themes of this very timely film and examines what all the fuss is about.

End of the world movies often start with someone from the scientific community discovering evidence of an impending catastrophe—in this case a comet heading straight for Earth.

They then fight to persuade a sceptical political establishment of the scale of the danger.

After some convincing, they get the world—usually led by the US—to mobilise all their resources at their disposal to successfully deal with the threat.

But it doesn’t quite work out like that in this film.

The two scientists, Kate Dibiasky and Dr Randall Mindy, played by Leonardo di Caprio and Jennifer Lawrence, succeed in alerting the politicians to the danger.

This is the point that the fun and games commence.

President Janie Orlean—played by Meryl Streep—seizes on the issue to further her electoral prospects.

The US mobilises to intercept and destroy the incoming danger, but the mission is aborted at the behest of a Jeff Bezos-type ­billionaire, Peter Isherwell.

Isherwell has his own plans for the comet, which involve ­harvesting the comet’s rare-earth elements, even if that involves increasing the risk of the Earth’s destruction.

In this matter he has the ­wholehearted support of President Orlean’s government.

The scientists try to mobilise a confused public with their “Just look up” campaign.

But the unholy alliance of ­business and government counters this with their own “Don’t look up” message.

What follows is a chilling echo of the counterfactual “fake news” campaign launched by Donald Trump and his supporters, similar to what was seen during the ­election ­campaign of 2020.

You had best see the film to ­discover how it all pans out.

The screenwriter, producer and director, McKay created the film explicitly as an analogy to the ­capitalist class’s attitude to climate change.

But it could equally apply to the approach to the Covid crisis.

It is becoming increasingly ­apparent that the politicians are following the money, not the science.

And although there might be those who previously would have dismissed the film as preposterous, McKay’s vision is all too believable after the four chaotic Trump years.

Don’t Look Up is hugely enjoyable, a must-see disaster film.

But very few people leaving the cinema are likely to be free of the nagging thought that the film’s premise is all too believable.

Many will also believe that our current political leaders would, or would not, act in a similar manner.

Don’t Look Up is available on Netflix

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