If we take a look back over the last eight years Matt Damon has hardly set the world on fire. Sure, Jason Bourne is back sometime over the next couple of years with a still untitled, hotly anticipated Bourne sequel. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
In fact, the discussion around the prospect of a new Bourne film was always going to be fairly limited. Anyone with one eye on the movie scene would know that The Martian is kind of a big deal. It fits the current Hollywood trend of sending their suited heroes into the unknown, where noone can hear you scream. All the while the paying viewers scoff down on popcorn, slurp on an oversized coke, and/or rustle around in a bag of maltesers. We literally eat this stuff up and only a handful of people are ballsy enough to stand up and announce that Gravity and Interstellar just didn’t cut it.
I am not one of those people. The technical achievement of Gravity blew me away and my anticipation for Interstellar was through the roof before I even sat down. Come Wednesday The Martian aims to shake things up a bit. Gravity to Sandra Bullock was a great chance to stretch her acting boundaries but in a largely forgettable performance all we really praise are the visuals. Interstellar was all about McConaughey but with the McConaissance in full swing, dare I say it, we were a little bored and again the visuals took precedent.
The Martian shakes it up a little bit. With two heavy hitting space sci-fi/dramas under Hollywood’s belt something has to give it a new lease of life. Gravity was novel, Insterstellar was epic. Giving Matt Damon’s career the Jamba Juice it deserves The Martian promises to revive the incredible career of Matt Damon. But of his illustrious career what are his best performances?
1 Good Will Hunting (1997)
Ah, good ol’ Will Hunting. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote this inspiring story of psychological struggle, a battle with identity and an IQ through the roof. With the ability to solve any math equation thrown at him it transpires that Will’s biggest threat to prosperity is his attitude to life and his inability to cope with everyday struggles. Back in 1997 Matt Damon was properly introduced to Hollywood.
2 Saving Private Ryan (1998)
One year later and Matt Damon was thrust into Steven Speilberg’s D-Day epic, Saving Private Ryan. Never before had the D-Day landings been recreated to such harrowing realism and for the first half Tom Hanks is front and centre. Tracking Ryan to a small bridge in Ramelle Miller dutifully informs Ryan of the loss of his brothers. Refusing to leave “the only brothers [he has] left” Miller orders his squad to defend the bridge with the remainder of Ryan’s squad. Saving Private Ryan is ultra-realistic and Matt Damon delivers a stunning performance.
3 The Bourne Identity (2002)
Some years later and Matt Damon had starred in The Talented Mr. Ripley and Ocean’s Eleven but nothing could stand up to his defining performance as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity. Suffering from amnesia Bourne attempts to retrace his steps and discover his true identity. Still fairly new to the game Damon brings his naivety to Bourne perfectly and in the process sets in motion one of the most successful spy franchises of all time. The best part about it? Damon actually grows as an actor across the three films.
4 The Departed (2006)
With another large stint starring in underwhelming Hollywood vehicles Damon returned to our radar in 2006 as Colin Sullivan in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. A western adaptation of Infernal Affairs this is a rare case of doing the original justice. With a stellar cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson, Damon performs at the top of his game and gives this film the paranoid edge it deserves while carving a name for himself. Damon is officially pretty versatile.
5 True Grit (2010)
The truth is that since The Departed Damon hadn’t really done anything special. The novelty of Ocean’s Eleven wore off after the heist. Then there were a couple of TV appearances, an uncredited role in a largely forgettable Coppola feature and then Green Zone. Hardly the stuff of dreams but it paid the bills. Then came an interesting little feature from the Coen brothers. A remake of western classic, True Grit.
The original 1969 film starred John Wayne at the peak of his western dominance. So the Coen’s decision to remake a classic western attracted a bit of attention. While Damon doesn’t really reach the levels of say Saving Private Ryan or The Departed his role is more nuanced and limited to western tropes. By no means a career defining performance but Damon still brings a refreshing attitude to the screen after a brief hiatus.
The thing is, Matt Damon never really got going again after True Grit. Of course, hindsight is a beautiful thing so it’s easy to criticise the slighter features he went for. But unbeknownst to the movie viewing public The Bourne Ultimatum threatened more than just the end of one of the greatest spy franchises.
True to form Damon returns to treat his viewers to another stunning performance that puts his most recent efforts to shame.
The Martian. Another small step for Hollywood, or one giant leap for Damon’s arguably dwindling career?
You Decide. The Martian is out Wednesday 30th September and is already a Must-see.
~ Happy Viewing ~