TL;DR – A mockumentary that tries to walk the line between entertaining and informative and often fails even before it stops its narrative to do an ad for Netflix halfway through.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid and post-credit scene
Death to 2020 Review –
I don’t think it is a controversial statement to say that 2020 has been a crap year on many fronts. It was so bad that I forgot some of the bad things that happened only to be reminded of them tonight. When a documentary film titled Death to 2020 comes along … well you have my attention, even when you find out it is a mockumentary that could still be good if executed well. However, I am not sure this one stuck the landing.
Death to 2020 starts in an interesting place because it is a documentary presented by actors playing roles. Right from the start, there is an interesting juxtaposition between reality and fiction as Laurence Fishburne’s calm tones narrate the coming calamity. This kind of set up gives you a lot of potential because it removes you slightly from the material, giving you avenues for comedy and introspection. However, that is a tricky line to walk, and frankly, this film slipped off that edge on multiple occasions.
While this is presented as a look back on the year that was for the globe, this is just looking at the world from the perspective of the UK and the USA. Sure the Australian bushfires, Italian lockdown, that idiot in charge of Brazil, and China get a mention here and there. But this is a mockumentary that is almost exclusively focused on the political musings of 10 Downing Street and The Whitehouse. Sometimes it can be useful to narrow the focus, and 2020 has given the world a lot of material to work with, but it would have been nice to engage with the world and the world’s experience.
How this film is structured is that we have our narrator go through the blow-by-blow moments of the year with footage grabbed from real news programs. While this is happening, we cut to knowledgeable people for commentary, much like a real documentary would do. We have Tennyson Foss (Hugh Grant) Professor of History, Dash Bracket (Samuel L Jackson) a reporter for New Yorkerly News, and Dr Maggie Gravel (Leslie Jones) Behavioural Therapist, just to name a few. The juxtaposition of the real news and the fake commentary section is where the film works but more often does not work.
I think this film owes a lot to both Leslie Jones and Samuel L Jackson for working as well as it does. Even while still playing characters, their more straight-shooting delivery makes those segments work, even when they are dealing with difficult or emotional subject material like Black Lives Matter. The rest of the cast is a bit more of a mixed bag with regards to their implementation with some fun moments with out-of-touch air brained professor Hugh Grant, but not a whole lot else. Sometimes it feels that actors like Kumail Nanjiani were wasted and other times entire segments like whatever they were trying to do with Cristin Milioti falls flat. This is a problem, but just when you start to get frustrated with it, the narrative grinds to a halt, so the film can stop and do an ad for Netflix. Look sure I liked The Floor is Lava too, but come on people, I know you do Black Mirror, but come on.
In the end, do we recommend Death to 2020? Well, look. I have spent worst hours of my life. I have also spent a lot better hours in my life as well. There are some good moments here, but not enough to recommend going out of your way to watch it. But it is not so offensive that you have to actively avoid it if someone puts it on the TV this New Years. If you liked Death to 2020, I would recommend you Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Death to 2020
Directed by – Al Campbell & Alice Mathias
Written by – Charlie Brooker, Tom Baker, Kemah Bob, Ken Bordell, Munya Chawawa, Constance Cheng, Alan Conner, Erika Ehler, Charlie George, Eli Goldstone, Mollie Goodfellow, Jason Hazeley, Angelo Irving, Kae Kurd, Ali Marlow, Thanyia Moore, Joel Morrie & Michael Odewale
Created by – Charlie Brooker & Annabel Jones
Cinematography by – Jamie Cairney & Adam Silver
Edited by – Damon Tai & Jason Boxall
Production/Distribution Companies – Broke & Bones & Netflix
Starring – Samuel L Jackson, Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani, Tracey Ullman, Samson Kayo, Leslie Jones, Diane Morgan, Cristin Milioti, Joe Kerry & Laurence Fishburne with Angelo Irving & Lily Sullivan,
Rating – Australia: M