Matt Damon's career has always, like many stars, peaked and dipped. Before The Bourne Identity rendered him an action hero (after Brad Pitt turned it down), Damon himself felt he was done as a leading man - All The Pretty Horses and The Legend of Bagger Vance had both lost money. While he returned to Bourne with success recently and bagged a critical and commercial smash with The Martian, Damon is once again struggling to put bums on seats after The Great Wall and George Clooney's Suburbicon lost their lunch money at the box-office. Part of this is because the notion that movie stars drive audiences to pay to see films is fading, but also because Damon is willing to take risks when other name actors will play it safe and work every year or two.
Downsizing is a role he picked when he had Manchester by the Sea on the table; taking the option of working with the perpetually lauded Alexander Payne on his most ambitious project to date ahead of a future awards winner.
This is a strange film. Pure and simple. Strange in its concept and the execution of its concept. You have more money when you're small because you use less stuff and also help the environment - the reason a Scandinavian brain developed 'downsizing' to begin with. Damon's Paul Safranek could've been a surgeon but took the time to take care of his sick mother and life got ahead of him, so is unfulfilled. That's the real nucleus of the film and, despite said high concept, that's what interests Payne. Can you tell a human story in an unusual setting?
Tonally the film makes some unusual decisions and goes to places you don't expect it to; the trailers have pushed more of a straight-up comedy and the plot kind of points to that on paper. That's not what's here at all and the film takes longer to digest as a result, nor is it a typical Payne joint with an intimate setting - it has far more scope than any of his previous efforts.
Damon is aging gracefully; now in his late 40s, he has no problem showing it. It's strong work from the Oscar winner, whose connection with the character bleeds through his performance. Christoph Waltz is clearly enjoying himself in a fun role, while Hong Chau is the real standout with a funny and touching performance.