Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect reviews the Netflix movie Don’t Look Up!

“Appreciate the brilliance of the season’s most profound, category-busting movie.”

Don’t Look Up is described as a parody of Trumpism and climate denial. It is elegantly that. But more importantly, the movie is a dead-on satire of the interconnected debasement of America’s politics, pop culture, conventional media, social media, spectacle, tech and corporate elite—and of how the corruption of each element corrupts the other, feeding the general cynicism and the craving for a fascist savior, political or corporate.

Credit goes to the director, writers, and producers: Adam McKay, David Sirota, Kevin Messick, and Ron Suskind. The public seems to grasp what this movie is about more than many critics.

Don’t Look Up is the top Netflix hit, so no spoiler alert is needed: A graduate student (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers that a comet is headed directly for Earth, where it will wipe out human life. She and her professor (Leonardo DiCaprio) meet with the president (Meryl Streep), who is torn between denial and acting decisively to save the planet (Trump and vaccines?).

The president has a demented chief-of-staff son (the Trump kids). I am told that the opportunistic Streep character was intended as three parts Trump and one part the Clintons.

The president, after dithering, initially orders NASA to send a nuclear weapon to explode in space and deflect the comet. But here comes the best part of the movie.

A tech billionaire, played by Mark Rylance, realizes that the comet contains trillions of dollars’ worth of rare minerals. So he devises a rival mission, blessed by the president, to break the comet into bits that will fall into the ocean to be profitably harvested. The mission fails.

In a formidable cast, Rylance steals the show. The Rylance character is the CEO of BASH Cellular, a data-mining company that can read people’s thoughts and predict their futures.

Rylance was actually a late addition. At one point, DiCaprio was to play both the scientist and the billionaire, and the billionaire was a more conventional business thug. Rylance, soft-spoken and new-agey, has created a character who perfectly captures the creepy, messianic allure of Musk, Zuckerberg, Bezos et al., as well as their hypocrisy and willingness to sacrifice humanity.

As a Rylance obsessive, I have seen him, live, playing an astonishing range of roles from Richard III to a Minnesota ice fisherman, and this could be his most inventive and true creation of a character ever.

One of the movie’s many grace notes is the send-up of manic happy-news talk shows. Here, the co-hosts interview the scientists but want only an upbeat story. Even the good-guy scientist of the piece (DiCaprio) ends up corrupted, promoting the comet’s commercial potential and having a cheesy fling with the talk show co-host (Cate Blanchett), whose character is as cynical off camera as she is giddily upbeat on TV.

Those who have dismissed the movie as too much of a downer, or too obvious a parody of science denial, miss the point. Don’t Look Up is far richer as an excavation of the codependency of corporate and political fascism, enabled by the distraction of spectacle, social media, and tech.

The takeaway: If we are doomed, it is not mainly because of climate denial.