Movie Review - Downsizing
Matt Damon (The Martian and The Bourne Identity) stars as Paul Safranek, an occupational therapist in Omaha, Nebraska. He's married and has no children. As a result of medical problems with his mother, Paul has not been able to have an ambitious career as a doctor like he might have wanted. He has further financial problems, which lead him and his wife to consider going small. Paul learns that the Norwegian shrinking process can mean an end to financial problems because due to economies of scale. The cost to house and feed a human who's only five or six-inches tall is supremely less than a human who is five or six-feet tall. Basically, a dollar for a normal-size human translates to a million dollars for a shrunk human.
Cities or protected communities for shrunk people have been built. These communities probably have the smallest carbon-footprint ever, but it's never quite clear how these communities operate. They're not totally self-sufficient like an actual city. They need to be regulated by normal-size people but at the same time they need protection from the normal-size world.
If shrunk people want to travel from one city to another, they need to use normal-size transportation. Normal-size buses or planes are used. Those buses and planes simply have special provisions for shrunk people, just as they have for disabled humans. Ultimately, for shrunk humans to function, normal-size humans are still required, so only a certain percentage of humans total can or should be shrunk. The movie never identifies a goal percentage. It also never underscores the symbiotic relationship between shrunk people and normal-size people. It suggests the resentment and bigotry that some people might feel about this relationship, but the film never goes anywhere with it.
There's also never any acknowledgment that shrunk people are called small people, but this is a bit of an affront to people who are born with dysplasia or some kind of dwarfism. It's odd that a movie constantly talks about shrunk people as small or little people, but we don't get the actual perspective of people born of short stature like Peter Dinklage or somebody.
One suspects that there is a danger of shrunk people in the world. There's mentions of insects or birds, but it's not as if shrunk people can go walking even in a city like Omaha. The film doesn't really deal with relationships between shrunk people and normal-size people. The film focuses a lot on the process of shrinking than on the dynamics between the big and small worlds.
Then, out of nowhere, the film veers off and takes Paul and Ngoc Lan to a third act that literally abandons the issues established in the shrunken community. It tries to present a scenario akin to that in Wall-E (2008), Wayward Pines (2015) or simply that of Noah's ark. It possibly wouldn't have been so bad, if this scenario didn't come so late and not account for so many variables. The moment the scenario is introduced, the choice Paul is given is obvious, making the ending predictable and unsatisfying. It does lead to a pretty, funny gag that is the only, truly funny moment in the entire film. That moment is lessened by the fact that Ant-Man (2015) did the same gag but only more effectively because that movie did a better job of contrasting and defining the relationship between the big and small worlds.
Rated R for language, graphic nudity and drug use.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 15 mins.