The Talented Mr. Matt Damon

I talk a lot about books and I watch a lot of TV, but I don't often talk about movies. This is sort of because I don't really love movies the way I love TV. I love television because the multiple episodes and series gives time for character development and intricate plot lines, not to mention running themes that span over seasons and bring continuity to the whole story.

Oh hai Matt, welcome to my blog!
But I do like movies and I go to the theatre fairly often, and there are a particular type that I must see on the big screen, regardless of genre or plot or price: movies starring Matt Damon.

When I was about 11 years old, my aunt rented Good Will Hunting. I was clearly too young to watch it or understand the plot, but I did anyway. I was initially attracted to it because Robin Williams, of Jack fame, was in it. I remember not really understanding much of the story on a symbolic level, but it sparked my life-long love affair with Matt Damon. At first I thought he was just really attractive, but I've since grown to appreciate his acting. I think he is incredibly diverse and I love seeing the kind of characters he plays. I particularly love it when he gets angry in films, because he is so convincingly menacing. He's also a great comedic actor, but he hasn't been much appreciated for his lighter roles.

In high school I made it my mission to see and own every movie (and more recently: TV show) in which Matt Damon makes an appearance. This has lead to some excellent finds, such as School Ties, and some not-so-great films, such as Gerry and All the Pretty Horses. I've decided to compile a list of my top 10 favourite Matt Damon movies, just because. I'm excluding the Bourne trilogy, because they are obviously his best-known films and by and large my favourites, too. You may also notice that Saving Private Ryan is missing from this list, and that's because after seeing Band of Brothers, no war film can compare.

10. The Adjustment Bureau (2011) - I'm not going to lie; I was quite disappointed with this film. The previews made it seem like a thriller that would mess with your mind, but in reality it's a watered-down lame allegory for Christianity. Why it's placed on my top 10 list above 30-odd other films, though, is that Matt Damon's chemistry with his romantic partner, played by Emily Blunt, is incredible. It's real and casual but also cute and touching and I totally believed that they were in love. Their banter is so realistic that it doesn't feel like acting at all, and the fact that you actually believe they are in love and want them to finally be together makes the movie slightly more palatable (and probably why it ends up being so disappointing). In the case of this movie, I feel like the fault is with the screenplay and not the actors' capabilities.

9. The Departed (2006) - I actually don't think this movie is Matt's best character, nor his best acting, even though he was nominated for an Oscar. I also think Leonardo DiCaprio completely outshines him in this film; having said that, I think this movie as a whole is quite good, and I really like the character development throughout. The end is where Matt steps up and rocks it, and the process to get there is great.

8. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) - This was the second Matt Damon movie I saw, and, again, didn't really understand it when I did. But it's definitely one of Matt's best roles. He's creepy and seductive and awkward and a chameleon and he remains so elusive throughout the entire film. It's such an intriguing movie and you don't really realize how disturbing it is until it's over. It's also Matt in his pre-Bourne days, so he's still scrawny and young and unadulterated by Hollywood.

7. The Good Shepherd (2006) - I love this movie. Not many people have seen it or even heard of it, but it's one of my favourites. I think it didn't get the attention it should've because it came out just after the failed Syriana, a complicated film about oil and the government in Iraq, and The Departed, which gained a lot of critical acclaim. Also the plot of The Good Shepherd is about CIA conspiracy and is a bit confusing. But it is without a doubt one of Matt's best characters, Edward Wilson. He hardly speaks throughout the entire film, so most of his action is in his facial expressions and body language. It's a moving film with lots of layers, and it's definitely worth watching.

6. Stuck On You (2003) - This movie is ridiculous. It's about conjoined twins who live two very separate lives, but try to continue these lives literally joined at the hip. It features cameos by Cher and Meryl Streep, and the whole plot is complete nonsense. But it's so funny. It co-stars Greg Kinnear, and the pair are just fantastic together. It also features Matt's character as the shy, panicky, romantic of the two, and it's an unusual role for him. Even though this movie is found in $5 or less bins all around the country, I think it's an (absurd) gem.

5. The Informant! (2009) - Again, this movie wasn't as widely appreciated as it should've been. In addition to an cast who should also be more appreciated than they are, Matt Damon's performance is fantastic. The film itself is a stand-out piece in comedy - it's not a laugh-out-loud slapstick comedy; rather it's the kind of humour that makes you grin and think "Wow, that is really funny! How clever!". Matt's performance gets better and better as the film moves along and you get to know more about his absurd character, Mark Whitacre. If you haven't seen this movie, you should.

4. True Grit (2010) - I was sceptical about this before I saw it, but True Grit is hilarious. Again, not slapstick or dumb comedy, but quick witted and clever. Every actor is a stand-out in this movie, and they play off each other so well. Matt's character, LaBoeuf, is arrogant and inappropriate and awkward - all traits he doesn't often portray in films. The whole time I was in the theatre all I kept thinking was "This is so good. It's funny on so many levels."

3. Good Will Hunting (1997) - As my original exposure to Matt, this had to be in my top 3. And when I watch it now, I still think it's a fantastic movie. Will Hunting is this fantastic character that embodies so much about our culture today: a genius 20-something who is handed life on a platter but rebels against authority; the real, lasting imprint that a childhood without love leaves on the soul; the exploitation of education so that anyone can recite a textbook and think they're smart; the desperate need for love but the absolute fear of finding it. It's an incredible film and I love everything about it.

2. School Ties (1992) - This movie also features young Brendan Fraser, Ben Affleck, and Chris O'Donnell. By and large I like it so much because it appeals to my love of boarding school narratives and sports stories. Matt's character, Charlie, is the antagonist to Brendan Fraser's character, the new jock who gets in on a football scholarship and steals Charlie's thunder as the hot-shot of the school. It's also a story about anti-Semitism, so it has pretty much every narrative element that I love. It's also a really interesting film to watch because each actor had yet to become famous and their performances are quite pure.

1. Ocean's Eleven (2001) - Ocean's Eleven isn't just my favourite Matt Damon movie; it's one of my favourite movies of all time. It has everything: an intricate and elaborate plot, the best cast of all time, the excitement of Vegas, cool cinematography. I enjoy this movie every time I watch it. I also really like Matt's character Linus, because he's this relatively useless kid who gains confidence and ends up playing a major role in the heist. It's funny and it's interesting and it's mindless enough to be a really enjoyable film.

And thus I leave you with another pointless list about an actor no one else loves as much as I do. If you ever want to have a Matt Damon marathon with me and see some of these movies that you haven't yet and perhaps want to, I'd be more than happy to oblige.



Brittany S said…
I agree about True Grit. The only reason I went to see it was because the old school theatre down the street from my house was playing it as its last show before closing down. While a sad night overall, the movie was awesome! I haven't seen many Matt Damon films but I'm really glad that I saw this one. Just fantastic.

Unknown said…
I wasn't sure about True Grit and now your review has changed my mind. I will see it!

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