Matt Damon Month #1: The Martian, Good Will Hunting

The Martian

Enter Mark Watney: Esteemed botanist. Astronaut. Space Pirate. Adapted from the novel by Andy Weir, The Martian follows Watney as he fights to survive on the a desolate Mars. Assumed to be dead by the crew and everyone back at NASA, Watney uses his knowledge of botany, engineering and physics to grapple for more time as his food, water, and oxygen are slowly depleted. Meanwhile, back on earth, the leaders at NASA discover his survival and brainstorm ideas for his rescue. Faced with setback after setback, Watney retains his boyish sense of humor and optimism, allowing him to think clearly and solve difficult problems. Starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney, this science-fiction flick keeps you sweating with anticipation until the very end. Not only is the film exciting, the story is written brilliantly and it was incredible to see the book come to life. However, be wary of the acting, which left me underwhelmed at times. Furthermore, the plot was unfortunately somewhat rushed due to the fact that the novel is longer than the screenplay. Despite this, the film is quite compelling and an all-around fun ride. Also stars Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders (director of NASA), Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis, and Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose. The Martian was directed by Ridley Scott and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Leading Actor (Matt Damon).

Good Will Hunting

Written by and starring real-life best friends, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Good Will Hunting paints a portrait of poor, yet ingenious and street-smart Will Hunting (Matt Damon), who ironically works as a janitor at MIT. Although poor, uneducated, and a delinquent, Will has absorbed much information throughout his life and is proficient at a college level in many disciplines, especially mathematics. Despite being incredibly intelligent, Will spends most of his time drinking and getting into trouble with his best friend, Chuckie (Ben Affleck). After being discovered by an altruistic professor (Stellan Skarsgard), Will is given the opportunity to avoid going prison if he agrees to partake in psychological counseling from Sean (Robin Williams), a washed up community college psychology professor. Although initially perverse to the idea, Will discovers that his background resembles Sean’s more than he originally thought. Also stars Minnie Driver as Will’s wealthy, Harvard-educated girlfriend. To me, the film is nothing short of genius. The actors’ portrayal of the characters’ development is compelling and magnetic. Instead of showing a grand adventure, much of the plot is unraveled from things we learn from the characters’ pasts. The storyline, paired with the actors’ performances, left me invested in the characters’ outcomes and generally stunned by the film’s impact on me. Furthermore, Gus Van Sant’s direction created a certain humor and light-heartedness surrounding the characters, despite the harshness of their reality. All in all, this film will leave you thinking about your own life long after the credits roll. The movie won two Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor (Robin Williams) and Best Original Screenplay (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck).

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