Runtime 119 minutes
I went into this thinking it was really a dumb idea and not expecting much. The idea, if you don’t know by now, is that someone in Norway has created a way to reduce the size of human beings down to five inches without harming their abilities to live as they have. The result is that lots of people have opted for this because it allows them to live much better on their means. They need something like 99 percent less of everything – space, food, energy, etc. As a result their money buys thousand-folds more than before to satisfy their needs and requirements.
So several years later there are two types of people living on the earth, normal sized people and five-inchers. They travel together, the five inchers in special boxes that go in planes and trains.
It sounds ridiculous but director Alexander Payne (who has a co-writing credit with Jim Taylor) has put it together so that it is believable enough to tell an interesting story.
Matt Damon and his wife, Kristen Wiig, decide to take the plunge, and it’s irreversible. Once you do it you can’t decide to go back to being normal sized.
There, Matt meets Cristoph Waltz, who has downsized to make a lot of money importing things from his regular sized brother and they are making a killing.
But it is not until Hong Chau, who has been downsized against her will as a political punishment, enters the picture that the film starts perking. She brings a life and esprit to the film that it sorely needs. Up until her appearance, it was no better than all right. When she appears it’s as sparkling as a shooting star.
There is a huge plot hole in the film. One of the draws of downsizing for Damon was the mansion he would live in, which he could only afford if he downsized. He is given the house. Then in the next scene he is living in an apartment with a noisy neighbor (Waltz) living above him. Neither I nor my assistant understood why his residence suddenly changed until we read the production notes that explained what had happened. Unfortunately, to reveal it would be a huge spoiler and I’m not going to do that. And, to be frank, even when we learned why it didn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Also, at the end of the film all the five-inchers are in a boat traveling up a Norwegian fiord. Since everything is in scale, we have to assume that they are in a boat that would accommodate five-inch people. That would make the boat maybe 20-30 inches long. A boat of this size couldn’t possibly stay afloat in the ocean for more than a few moments, and, even if it did, it would take it probably months to travel the distance it is supposed to travel here. Sci-fi films generally require a healthy disassociation from reality, but they should have dealt with this better than they did.
Naturally, since director Payne is a big time member of the Hollywood left, he has to insert a political note in the film and that is that due to a huge methane leak in the Arctic, the end of the world is near. Shades of On the Beach (1959)!
Even so, this is a pretty good story, but the film is worth seeing if just to view Chau’s Oscar-worthy performance.