Stars: Matt Damon, Chistoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Kristen Wiig, Rolf Lassgård
Writer-director Payne’s follow-up to the funny, affecting Nebraska is an ambitious but flawed sci-fi satire. It starts off promisingly as Norwegian scientist Dr Jorgan Asbjornsen (Lassgård) announces to his stunned colleagues that he has discovered how to shrink people to five inches. Dwindling resources and the rising cost of living make this an attractive proposition for people all over the world. Soon American everyman Paul Safranek (Damon) and his wife Audrey (Wiig) decide to literally downsize their life. But once in this new community, Paul discovers the new frontier isn’t as flawless as advertised, when he encounters seedy European playboy Mirkovic (Waltz), then later, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), a political refugee and illegal immigrant who has stowed away in a parcel. The initial world-building is wittily executed and the picture boasts some impressive visual effects, but, while the film contains wry observations on status (ideological and material), how ethical living is commodified, and how idealism can spill over into cult-like behaviour, it is overlong, losing its focus midway then meandering tediously. And the depiction of Chau’s character as a clichéd, shouty and blunt South East Asian, feels depressingly retrograde.