DVD REVIEW: waydowntown

Exposing the soulless corporate world through cinematic social commentary has proven successful for many a twisted and mordant movie. Gary Burns’ “waydowntown,” an independent film set in the bustling, generic Canadian metropolis of Calgary, is yet another such success.

Combining the eerily insightful voice-overs in the vein of 1999’s head-spinning “Fight Club” and the sardonic conversations of “Office Space,” “waydowntown” caricaturizes the monotony of the nine-to-five desk job and the homogenization of today’s modern urban life.

The film focuses on the tedious lives of four 20-something coworkers at a nameless Canadian firm where signs like “Don’t make excuses, provide improvements” adorn the walls and cow workers into conformity.

The foursome has recently discovered that they can wend their way from their apartments to their office in an immense downtown shopping mall through tunnels, skyways, and inter-building corridors, without ever stepping foot outside. And with this realization comes a wager. To deal with the mind-numbing tedium of their cubicle lives, the group decides to bet a month’s salary to see who among them can survive the longest without fresh air.

The neuroses of the quartet are beginning to surface on day 24 of the game. According to Tom (Fabrizio Filippo), the film’s star and narrator, a month “inside” is intoxicating: “You feel crappy and hungover, but underneath that you’re still a little drunk and light-headed.”

The anxieties lead to curious hallucinations and ruminations, leaving us wondering what visuals are real and what’s induced by the characters’ suffocations.

While perhaps not as pithy or insightful as some of its cinematic counterparts, “waydowntown” certainly provides interesting commentary and sarcastic wit to boot. And though thoroughly depressing for those destined to empty lives as corporate minions, “waydowntown” doesn’t hold back in exposing corporate behemoths as the soul-stealers they are.

—Staff writer Morgan R. Grice can be reached at mgrice@fas.harvard.edu.