With Elysium hitting theaters August 9th, we’re back to seeing Oscar-winning screenwriter Matt Damon suited up as an action hero. While Damon’s career hasn’t exactly been rife with shoot-em up roles, there’s been a few that not only mark his career, but helped redefine and push the boundaries of the genre as well. Here they are, in no particular order, but with Bourne mentioned first because, c’mon, Jason Bourne.
Duh. It can be said (arguably), that Jason Bourne was the action hero for a new generation, following the genre’s apex in the mid-late 80’s. Since the moment he first stepped into the role, Matt Damon played Jason Bourne as a no-frills ass-kicker who makes his impact as a stone-cold professional, rather than spouting off one liners. And while he’s something of a physical marvel in his fights, the moves he fires off are always in the realm of possibility – it’s not like he’s flipping over trucks while chomping on a cigar.
While he doesn’t overly emote in the franchise, Damon brings a quiet frustration to the character that becomes more and more profound as the audiences become more familiar with him over the three films.
While, calling Saving Private Ryan an “action film,” and Private Ryan an “action role” might be a little off-point, it’s hard to call the last quarter of the film anything other than a mind-blowing action sequence. The fact that it’s rife with sentiment and historical weight doesn’t change that fact.
While Private Ryan was the one being saved, rather than doing the saving, he demonstrates some serious integrity as he refuses to leave his platoon during a crucial stand.
In short, he earned it.
While Titan A.E. was largely consumed and dismissed by critics and audiences alike, one can’t argue with the pedigree of voice actors and producers. The famous Don Bluth was behind the story of a young man (Tucker, voiced by Matt Damon) who was racing against evil aliens to locate a spaceship, and in doing so, save the damn world.
The film blends hand drawn animation with computer effects, giving the film a more organic feel than many of the clumsy early-CGI films of its era.
Courage Under Fire is another entry that defies the traditional action film mold, with the film’s protagonist dead within the first few minutes, and a narrative that is both unreliable and backwards looking. Matt Damon played Specialist Ilario, a medic who futilely tried to do the honorable thing while many of his peers were looking for an easier way out during a dangerous firefight.
Of course, we are referring to Team America: World Police. Damon is hardly a daunting presence in the film, and while the action film is puppet-driven, and Damon is portrayed as mentally disabled because his marionette looked, frankly, retarded, the fact is there just aren’t too many Matt Damon action films, so we’ll take what we can get.
The Green Zone was another film that didn’t manage to resonate with audiences or critics, and serves as a political thriller with a fair amount of action in it. Set in Iraq in present-day 2009, Green Zone follows Matt Damon’s character as he tries to figure out why he’s having such a hard time finding those weapons of mass destruction that he had been promised.
That was kind of a recurring theme for the past decade.
The Departed is, alas, another movie that you might not find in the “Action/Adventure” section of your local Blockbuster, but the body count by the end of the film would dictate otherwise. The Hong Kong actioner that it’s based on is a little more slick would in comes to the action, but that doesn’t mean that Scorsese can’t bring the ruckus, and Colin is arguably a bigger bad than even Nicholson in the US adaptation.
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