Downsizing Review

The Plot

An amazing new technology allows people to shrink themselves to just 5 inches tall, diminishing their environmental impact while allowing them to live lives of extravagant luxury in miniature cities. A couple concerned by their own bleak economic outlook considers making the big move and Downsizing…

The Good

Downsizing is a film which combines thought provoking and intelligent themes with well executed special effects and an entirely convincing cast. The result is an entertaining and entirely original experience for audiences.

The central questions that Downsizing explores are truly universal concerns about the environment, global economy and the ultimate future of humanity. These daunting and potentially depressing themes are however thankfully wrapped up within a series of uplifting personal journeys and the entertaining concept of miniaturization.

Matt Damon is a much adored leading man and continues to transition skilfully from his former boyish charms and action heroics into more mature roles. His character in this film acts as a wonderful vehicle for audiences to discover the world of Downsizing. In particular, his kind hearted good nature and relentless optimism are a welcome contrast to the more cynical portrait of mankind which the film often presents.

Alongside Matt Damon a host of familiar faces like Christoph Waltz, Udo Kier, Jason Sudeikis  and Kristen Wiig help populate the newly tiny world. However the film’s secret weapon is a star making turn from actress Hong Chau.

Playing an outspoken political refuge Chau is a consistent scene stealing revelation. Her performance is absolutely the heart of the movie, providing the film’s biggest laughs and most sincerely poignant moments. Pairing Chau’s joyously blunt Vietnamese prison survivor with Damon’s brow beaten and increasingly bemused American suburbanite, frequently yields excellent odd couple chemistry.  This unlikely coupling helps carry the film in many unlikely but rewarding directions.

One of the things that also enables Downsizing to tell a sincerely emotional and thoughtful story is the convincing special effects on show. Fine acting performances would not be capable of carrying audiences into the world of Downsizing if it didn’t look and feel so tangibly real. The film strikes a clever balance of making the reality of Downsizing equally wondrous and mundane.

The Bad

Director Alexander Payne has a specific style of melancholy storytelling. While some give him considerable credit for striking a consistently wistful balance between tragedy and bittersweet joy, others no doubt find the emotional tone of his films a little less readily satisfying. Downsizing takes a number of unexpected twists and those emotional and intellectual tangents force audiences to confront real life problems in a way they might not necessarily always welcome.

Likewise audiences lured into the film by the promise of dazzling special effects will be less happy about the fact that though the film showcases well executed and clearly expensive visual effect work, the film isn’t ever trying to be just ‘an effects’ film.  The goal of the film is always to make the effects less noticeable, not merely to showcase them in the most crowd-pleasing ways possible. People might go to Jurassic Park films just to see CGI dinosaurs, but you probably shouldn’t go to see Downsizing just to see tiny people.

The Ugly Truth  

Downsizing is an intelligent and well-made piece of cinema that holds audience’s attention thanks to brilliant work from a well-chosen cast, polished special effects and thought provoking subject matter.

Review by Russell Nelson


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