When we look back at the careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, we can point to one singular moment in their careers when they went from being burgeoning stars to near-permanent stars: Good Will Hunting. It was a film they wrote with themselves in mind for the lead roles, wanting to use it in the same way Stallone used Rocky to propel him up the Hollywood chain, and it worked. Nominated for nine Oscars, with Matt Damon’s Oscar-nominated turn (identical to Stallone oddly enough), Good Will Hunting propelled the two to the cusp of the Hollywood A-list and neither has looked back since.
It has a fairly simple premise. Will Hunting (Damon) is a construction worker who moonlights at MIT as a janitor who unwittingly walks into his life changing when he solves a fairly complicated math problem fairly easy and anonymously. More inclined to hang out with his friends from the neighborhood (Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser), he solves yet another problem but is caught by the professor who posed it (Stellan Skarsgard). When a fight lands him behind bars, he winds up in the employ of the professor and in the office of a shrink (Robin Williams) trying to help him handle his pass. Throw in a romance with a British med student (Minnie Driver) and his life as a janitor is about to be turned inside out. Like life, however, things aren’t quite as simple they appear to be.
The film is essentially a character study about a twenty-something who hasn’t quite become a man but isn’t a child anymore. Will is at that point in his life where he could be any number of things depending on the influences upon him but manages to have friends and a shrink who want him to do more with his life than what he’s doing currently. Whether or not he listens to them is something else and that’s what the film explores; is Will a smart enough guy to figure out that he can do more than work construction and clean the hallways of people he’s admittedly smarter than.
And it’s a brilliant film, maybe the best effort from Gus Van Sant, Affleck or Damon in recent history. It’s a strong character study, and a great story, that becomes brilliant because it’s a collection of great performances all combined into one film. While the film was intended as a vehicle for Affleck and Damon, the film’s real star ends up being Robin Williams. This was his career validation, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor when all was said and done, if only because it showed he was more than just one of the best comic actors in Hollywood. He had dramatic chops to match his comedic ones and he finally had the Oscar that so many other lesser actors had won before him. Williams nearly steals the film away from Damon and Affleck, the film’s breakout stars.
Both men would use this film to vault to higher fame; Affleck would hit on a couple of blockbusters almost immediately in Armageddon and using that buzz to become a major star. Coupled with a relationship with Jennifer Lopez and there was a point when Affleck appeared to be the next big star. Damon would need a couple years before reaching similar fame, needing The Bourne Identity to launch him to similar heights. Both needed this film to make that leap from strong actor to movie star.
When all is said and done, Good Will Hunting will be the film that will always be looked upon as the film that launched the careers of two big stars and ended up being the culmination of a career for another. It’s also a phenomenal film to boot.
The film is presented in a widescreen format with a Dolby Digital surround, the film has had its transfer upgraded significantly. This is a better looking version than the original DVD but not a massive step up in quality.
The extras on the Blu-ray release are exactly the same as the original DVD release but with a Digital Copy of the film. There are a handful of Deleted Scenes, an Audio Commentary from Van Sant, Affleck and Damon, a Production Featurette, the video for the song “Miss Misery” from the soundtrack as well as the Theatrical Trailer and Behind the Scenes footage.
If you want the improved audio/visual capabilities of the Blu-ray format then this is the version of Good Will Hunting to own. If not, stick to the regular DVD.
Miramax and Lionsgate present Good Will Hunting. Directed by Gus Van Sant. Starring Matt Damon, Minnie Driver, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck. Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Running time: 126 minutes. Rated R. Released on Blu-ray: August 30, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Minnie Driver, Robin Williams