FILM UNFILTERED - ‘Downsizing’ falls short of expectations

FILM UNFILTERED - ‘Downsizing’ falls short of expectations


Matt Damon is a pretty reliable actor and he excels in playing the straight-man role. That every-guy you’re familiar with, like a neighbor you see every day. He was great in “The Martian” in 2015, and of course cemented his popularity in the role of Jason Bourne over four films. But he has also been in a few lesser films that have been dead on arrival like 2013’s “Elysium.” Now, he stars in “Downsizing” and while the premise of this film and its trailer appeared to be a wildly entertaining venture, it isn’t.

The film starts with a scientific team having an amazing discovery of finding a way to shrink humans down to 5 inches tall. Their reasoning for this is that humanity is becoming too large, consuming too much and utilizing too much of Earth’s resources. They believe that by shrinking the population, they will be able to prevent the inevitable extinction of the human race. A small group of 36 people volunteer to be the first to “downsize” and for five years live in secret. Once the scientists reveal their findings and this small colony of little people, the public is amazed. Over the course of the next decade, more people decide to “get small” including Damon’s character, Paul.

He decides to leave his friends and family and move to a small community called Leisureland. This is where the film gets interesting but also where it begins to veer off in a completely different direction. The opportunity to get small is made more appealing specifically to the middle class who are struggling to make ends meet because in this shrunken society, the income you had when you cash in becomes greater in miniature. This is also where you start scratching your head as the film begins sending mixed messages. Paul moves into a giant-sized “McMansion” with all sorts of amenities he never could have afforded in the outside world. This is the lure to minimize because then, in essence, you can maximize all your stuff. His circumstances end up changing and he finds himself in a high-rise apartment where he initially has issues with his upstairs neighbor, Dusan, played by Christoph Waltz, before ultimately befriending him. Dusan is a suave, but sneaky trader of illicit goods and he is amused by Paul’s naivety.

Back in the outside world, though, political and social issues arise with little people versus normal sized people. Then some Vietnamese dissidents are discovered in a TV box at a Target and one eventually ends up in Leisureland as a cleaning lady. Paul (Damon) takes an interest in the plight of Ngoc (Hong Chau) and eventually discovers some secrets about this facility that sadden him and change the course of his life.

This film could have been so much better and far more entertaining. It seemed like it was going to be a raunchier, adult-oriented shrinking tale. Sadly though, the filmmakers decided to turn it into a social justice message film about global warming, overflowing landfills and humanity’s desire to obsess over having more and more material goods. “Downsizing” could have been an entirely different film and is a perfect example of the misleading way marketing can really ruin expectations.

Rated R.

In “Downsizing” Matt Damon’s character, Paul, agrees to shrink to 5 inches tall in an effort to have a better life.