Downsizing offers a fresh and original perspective on mankind’s greatest dilemma.

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DOWNSIZING (M)

***

Director: Alexander Payne

Starring: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz

Running: time 135 minutes

Verdict: Big issues

LIKE the revolutionary social experiment upon which it is based, Alexander Payne’s sci-fi satire fails to deliver on its initial promise.

Downsizing’s scaled-down characters, however, still offer a fresh and original perspective on mankind’s greatest dilemma.

The film takes its inspiration from a radical bioethical theory that proposes the engineering of a smaller human race to cope with climate change since a reduction in size would lead to the consumption of less energy and produce less waste.

Downsizing deals with one of mankind’s greatest dilemmas. Picture: Paramount Pictures
Camera IconDownsizing deals with one of mankind’s greatest dilemmas. Picture: Paramount PicturesPicture: AP

Incentives, proponents of the scheme suggest, could be provided in the form of tax breaks or sponsored health care.

Being a storyteller, Payne adds financial gain to the dramatic mix.

He also speeds up the physical process by way of technology, invented by a pair of idealistic Norwegian scientists, that shrinks humans to the height of 13cm in a matter of seconds.

Social conscience drives these utopian trailblazers.

A couple of decades on, however, the decision to literally “downsize” has become more of a consumer choice, particularly in the US.

Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) take the option because their money will go further in this miniaturised world, buying their dream house and more leisure.

But when it comes to actually undergoing the process, Audrey has second thoughts — a development Paul only learns after it’s too late.

Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek in Downsizing. Picture: Paramount Pictures.
Camera IconMatt Damon stars as Paul Safranek in Downsizing. Picture: Paramount Pictures.Picture: Supplied

Following the divorce settlement, he’s worse off than before. And lonely to boot.

His upstairs neighbour, a party-loving shyster played by Christoph Waltz, lends a bit of hedonistic colour to his otherwise grey new world.

But things only get really interesting when Paul encounters Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), a Vietnamese activist who was forcibly shrunk by the authorities to remove the troublemaker from their midst.

The abrasive amputee quickly gets under Paul’s skin and he is soon helping her transport food and medical supplies to the ghetto that exists on the other side of the gated community’s protective fence.

Even when you have the science to reimagine mankind at a cellular level, Payne suggests, that won’t alter the inherent power imbalances or man’s propensity for greed and self-interest.

Downsizing opens on December 26.



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