Friday, August 9, 2013

Top 5 Films Featuring Matt Damon

Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order. 

These are just some of my favorite films that Matt Damon, the actor and one of the stars of the new film "Elysium" has been in over the years that I enjoyed either based solely on their performance or it was just a generally well made and enjoyable film that they happened to part of in a supporting capacity.

Even though they started their careers working together, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have diverged on two completely opposite paths. While Affleck has found his calling behind the camera, Damon has proven himself to be one of the more dependable and consistently reliable stars working in Hollywood today. No other actor in recent memory has made the switch from either the drama or comedy genres into the action genre quite as easily and smoothly as Damon did, and the best part was that nobody had even imagined him doing so until it actually happened, that is the mark of a great actor, someone willing to put themselves out there and get out of their comfort zone.

He has formed quite the filmography over his acting career thus far. Starring in a varied assortment of films from psychological thriller "The Talented Mr. Ripley" to smaller and more quirky films such as Terry Gilliams "The Brothers Grimm" and even as a dopey lawman in "True Grit". While he certainly has his favorites to work with (5 films with Steven Soderberg and 3 films with Paul Greengrass to date), he isn't afraid to put himself out there if its a role he likes. With all that being said, these are the top 5 films (and one honorable mention) I believe best represents the acting career of Matt Damon.

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He may have been appearing in cult writer/director Kevin Smith's films at the time, but it was this one film that launched his career into orbit. Serving as both the film's star and sharing a screen writing credit (and Oscar win) with buddy Ben Affleck, Matt Damon made his mark in this moving drama about a young man, who despite his genius level of intelligence, decides to hide away in the Brooklyn suburbs until he is finally forced to come to grips with his unique talents and face his inner demons. There really isn't much to say, featuring yet another stellar dramatic performance from Robin Williams (you can tell he is serious because he has a beard), this is a timeless classic that still resonates today as much as it did nearly two decades ago.


When most people talk about Steven Spielberg's ode to the men who fought and lost their lives during World War 2, "Saving Private Ryan", the conversation is usually relegated to discussing the accurate portrayal of the Normandy invasion in its opening moments or how silly and unlikely its central story is. But the one thing most take for granted is how effective, and how necessary, the casting was for the title character or Private Ryan. What ultimately makes you, and the characters themselves, buy into their silly mission is when you first meet Matt Damon as Ryan and realize that he was most definitely worth every man who lost their life trying to find him. There is no other film on this list where Damon's casting was more vital or more thankless.


Do you remember when nobody saw Matt Damon as an action star? The first time that first trailer for Doug Liman's "The Bourne Identity" played was a polarizing moment. The thought that ran through everyones mind at the time was, "Is that Matt Damon Kung-fu kicking people?....Whaaaaa....". But as they say, the proof is in the pudding and when we finally got to see him throw down, it was a revelation. This is essentially the same career change that happened to Liam Neeson, it just happened for Damon at a much younger age. As for the other Bourne flicks, they were all fine, but the original still finds that perfect balance between action and story that the other ones would strive for but never really attain.


The entire cast of Martin Scorcese's crime epic (and Best Film of the Year Oscar winner) is amazing. Once you get past the shock and awe of such an amazing cast though, you start to settle in and that is when you realize that Matt Damon is playing the bad guy...and it's sort of difficult to ever come to grips with it at first. Even at the very end when he gets bit in the ass by a heaping amount of karma, you still find it hard to truly despise the guy simply because its Matt Damon. That is the brilliance of the casting work here (and Damon's performance), that they put such a naturally charismatic guy in the role of a complete weasel (or rat as they say) and ask you to hate him. What an amazing movie this is.


Up until now you have probably been on board with at least most of these picks, but here is where the line is drawn. You are probably wondering where the hell is "Ocean's 11", or "Dogma" or possibly even "Rounders". But you know what? As good as those films are, and possibly better overall than this one, none of them have anything on the character of Marc Whitaker. The film is based on a true story about a man who tries to convince the FBI that his company is into illegal business (which their not) and actually succeeds! Damon's portrayal of Whitaker though is a brilliant piece of restrained psychotic enthusiasm with an ironic twist that just spirals out of control by the end and results in likely the best performance of his career.


 Honorable Mention

He may not actually be in it, but chances are you know his name whenever you hear it. No other actor has ever been this recognized for a film he never actually appeared in (in any form!) as Matt Damon has been for Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America. This honorable mention can be summed up with two words..."Maaaaaatt Daaaaymun".


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