It only takes a minute girl [Review: Downsizing]

A Norwegian scientist has found a way to shrink humans to approximately 12 inches in height, meaning they have a much smaller environmental impact and incidentally can live a life of luxury on the cheap – but it’s irreversible. Occupational therapist Matt Damon and his wife Kristen Wiig are the couple trying to decide whether moving to a small community is an opportunity worth taking.

There are plenty of movies about shrinking people –Fantastic Voyage, InnerSpace, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and of course the various appearances of Ant-Man. In all of these movies the shrinking effect is reversible and the tone tends to be a mixture of action and comedy.

Downsizing takes a different approach, the key to which is the one-way procedure which gives miniaturization a whole new meaning. This is highlighted by the shrinking process – no instantaneous shrink ray or Ant-Man suit but a prolonged and demeaning medical procedure involving removal of hair and teeth and injection with a special shrinking medicine before being anaesthetised and locked naked in a giant microwave.

It’s a little hard to describe exactly what kind of movie this is. It’s not an action movie or a thriller, and it’s not a comedy either, although there’s the occasional comic moment. There's some romance, so at least we can be sure that size isn't everything, but it's not really a romantic comedy either. Perhaps it’s a little confused – too many subplots with messages about environmental catastrophe, race, immigration, poverty, social inequality and division.

However this is first and foremost a science fiction story in the John W. Campbell sense – the downsizing is the only fantasy element, and the movie takes this concept very seriously and explores the consequences, good and bad, of this new technology and its impact on the world. The result is a thoughtful movie about the challenge of taking an irreversible step into the unknown, and how this affects relationships in which some decisions are reversible.

While most of the supporting cast are poorly developed to the point of stereotyping – flamboyant European party animal, immigrant cleaner with heart of gold and so on, Matt Damon’s lead character is the exception – he’s got enough of a backstory and personality to convince that he is not a hero or villain but a likeable Philip Dick-style everyman character trying to muddle through.

Downsizing is a B-movie, and it’s disappointing in places but occasionally thoughtful or touching. It’s been mis-promoted as a comedy in the trailers when it would be better described as a drama. I found enough positives to merit the highly coveted Sci-Fi Gene three-star rating.

Score: 3 out of 5 stars
All movies reviewed on the Sci-Fi Gene blog are given a score of 3 out of 5 stars.


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