Downsizing Blu-ray Review
Life as an Ant-Man
Downsizing Film Review
Matt Damon goes super-small in the alternative high concept sci-fi comedy drama Downsizing.Director Alexander Payne is the man behind Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska, so it's no wonder that his latest effort is quite hard to categorise, taking an ostensibly high concept sci-fi premise and then using it as a backdrop to deliver an unusual social satire that trades in natural human characterisations, organic relationships and a healthy dote of darkly comic wit.
It's an acquired taste for sure, struggling to achieve the same compelling narrative or characters that dominated those three aforementioned efforts, which were all populated by similar outcasts and flawed individuals but somehow, despite their unfocused structure, felt more focused. Downsizing spends far too long establishing the credentials of its miniaturisation premise, with the real meat of the drama coming well over an hour into the bloated 135 minute runtime and, no sooner than it's arrived, transmorphing once again into a whole different kettle of fish; and not necessarily for the better.
It's an acquired taste.
The story follows Matt Damon's occupational therapist Paul, who decides the only way to give his wife (Kristen Wiig) the life she wants is to go to Leisureland, a miniaturised community where a little money goes a long way. The only caveat - you're 5 inches tall. Designed to provide a solution to overpopulation, 'downsizing' offers an attractive solution to Paul's problems, but once he's a resident in Leisureland, he finds things aren't quite what he expected them to be, and is forced out of his comfort zone and into a wide open world that he's largely avoided for all of his life.
There are some nice ideas in Downsizing, but there's also a price for its over-dedication to the high concept sci-fi premise, investing too much time at both ends of the overlong runtime in the story of overpopulation and global impact. In the middle, its human drama with Damon a complete fish-out-of-water, is at once engaging middle-age crisis territory and also a sharp satirical reflection of social status and expectations, reaching a high point when he interacts with Hong Chau's Vietnamese activist (although her forced accent appears part-redneck), which is just about the only element of the film that holds it together to its finale.
Downsizing Blu-ray Picture QualityDownsizing comes to UK Region Free Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount, who afford it a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen.
Digitally shot, the film benefits from impressive clarity and decent fine texturing, taking in clothing weaves and lapping up skin nuances, whilst blending in the CG miniatures and, conversely, exploring the super-sized view well (e.g. the giant vodka bottle).
Not exactly conventional demo material, it's hard to fault nonetheless.
The colour scheme is often quite a restrained affair, replete with pastels, browns and natural colours, accentuating the 'normal' living situation in spite of the smaller scale to things. Healthy skin tones are present across the majority of the piece, and some of the exteriors benefit from broader more vibrant reflection of lush greenery and gorgeous blue skies.
Black levels remain strong, and there's even a very fine layer of grain that appears to have been added into the mix to give it a more filmic texture belying the digital source. Not exactly conventional demo material, it's hard to fault nonetheless.
Downsizing Blu-ray Sound QualityParamount's Downsizing Blu-ray comes complete with an engaging DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that crafts some warm atmospherics, makes the most of diegetic background music, and enjoys the cheers of large crowds in delivering some sense of scale.
It's hardly a bracing affair, seldom afforded anything even remotely bombastic, but it's technically proficient, afforded the room to breathe across the array, with decent enough surround usage and nominal but still effective LFE backup.
A very good, effective track that is oftentimes even impressive.
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array and, indeed, this is oftentimes quite a front-dominated affair, but the various first act presentations, bustling bars, band music and so forth all allow for a more enveloping affair that draws you into the piece, giving the surrounds - and in particular the rears - plenty to do.
The internal song tracks played on jukeboxes, by bands, and at extended parties, enjoy a healthier output than the accompanying score, but that does a serviceable job at conveying mood and tone, which is quite a difficult task given the unconventional story and its inherent tonal obstacles. It's a very good, effective track that is oftentimes even impressive, but hardly reference material.
Downsizing Blu-ray ExtrasParamount's Blu-ray release of Downsizing affords it some decent extras in the form of a salvo of half a dozen reasonably substantial background featurettes which look into the production from every important angle.
A salvo of featurettes.
Working with Alexander spends 12 minutes with the cast and crew singing the praises of the director, whilst we get a further 12 minutes focussing instead on the cast themselves in The Cast, almost a quarter of an hour on the production design in A Visual Journey, and then a further 9 minutes focussing on the big-and-small integration in A Matter of Perspective. There's also 6 minutes on Matt Damon in That Smile, and another 6 minutes looking at the environmental angle in A Global Concern.
Downsizing Blu-ray VerdictDownsizing has some great ideas, but struggles to really pull off its audacious, ambitious blend of sci-fi, satire, drama, comedy, romance and drama. It's bloated, tonally inconsistent and burdened by an adherence to its high concept premise which would have better worked as just a backdrop to allow the more human drama beneath to shine.
A solid release.
Paramount's UK Blu-ray release of Downsizing affords it very good video and audio, and a salvo of background featurettes, leaving it a solid release for fans, but otherwise something of an acquired taste even for fans of the director's previous, impressive, work.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99
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