Downsizing is a pre-apocalyptic film starring Matt Damon who is shrunk down to minuscule size in order to prevent extreme climate change in the form of the next ice age. To be clear, it is not just Damon who shrinks, but large amounts of people who do not necessarily do it for the environment, but for the money as it is not only the body that shrinks, but the needs to support oneself as everything as they say, is relative. It is an interesting concept in a movie full of intriguing ideas and definitely one way that people could cut down on their carbon footprint if the technology to do so actually existed. Such as it is, the threat of the end of the world is lightly hinted at during the film and not made explicit until the final act when Damon has to make the decision to either live and try to help preserve the human race with a bunch of other intrepid futurists or take a second chance at love and live in the now.
Despite dealing with the current state of the world and how mankind is slowly destroying it and themselves along with it, much of the film deals with Damon and his personal life. He is married to Kristen Wiig who wants the finer things in life, things that Damon cannot afford and thus the moment where the main plot comes into play as they decide to move forward with the Downsizing procedure, an operation that will find them reduced to a fraction of their current size. At the last second, Wiig backs out and Damon finds himself alone and bitter in a world where he is just as poor as the one he left. Damon plays the Charlie Brown character well – the eternal optimist, forever getting screwed over while others get the football and he is left lying on his back in the grass. The viewer gets to know Damon’s character Paul well and it is important as the movie is predominantly a character piece and while others do enter his life, Christoph Waltz and Hong Chau specifically, the film is about Damon and the world he now finds himself in.
One of the more positive things about the picture is the fact that director Alexander Payne relays the message he is trying to deliver without ramming it down the viewer’s throat. Instead, he tries and succeeds in presenting it in a manner that is both thoughtful and humourous. There is enough to engage the audience without losing them, making a dramatic film and not a documentary and while doing it, touching upon things like waste, greenhouse gases, nature and even the economic impact of what would happen if people were to suddenly quit their jobs, sold their possessions and so forth. Though a lot is mentioned throughout, there is not enough follow-through, things that could have been explored a little more like natural predators both human and otherwise, weather and the actual creation of jobs for those that build, maintain and guard these little cities. A small thing, but something the viewer will end up thinking about while watching the movie.
The only other fault of the entire affair was the length of the film, for no matter how good it ended up being, one cannot help but feel it could have been a bit shorter and still have told the story the makers of this picture wanted to tell. Damon is solid, Wiig understated, Waltz quite funny and Chau both smart and engaging and the true north of Damon’s character though he fails to realise it until the end. Though the finale could have been a little stronger instead of schmaltzy and cliché, Downsizing still ends up being an entertaining film and one that ends up making the audience think just a little after all is said and done.
3.5 out of 5