Matt Damon Vs. Jeremy Renner
And now, the action spectacular you've been waiting for.
By James Brady Ryan
This Friday marks the release of the fourth movie in the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Legacy, and the first without Matt Damon as rogue agent Jason Bourne; Jeremy Renner is taking the reins. We may not get to see these two physically fight it out on screen, but we can pit them against one another with their best and worst roles.
Good Will Hunting
Obviously. Damon's charm helped round out a character who, let's face it, could have been off-putting. He even managed to sell that "How do you like them apples" thing, which... is not really a good comeback. (If you have to set up your own rejoinder, it's not actually witty.) But Damon's wounded soulfulness is palpable throughout the movie. Some of the film feels a bit hokey today, but the scene of Will's breakdown in the face of his childhood abuse is still touching.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
One of the first films to suggest that Damon can work well outside of the pretty-boy mold, The Talented Mr. Ripley finds him playing a pretty boy...who is fucking insane. Tom Ripley is a brilliant sociopath, and Damon plays his evolution from hapless wannabe to cold-blooded serial killer at just the right pace. At the start of the film, he's basically your weird roommate — the one who suggests you get matching tattoos after a month, or asks if he can borrow your underwear. And yet Damon makes it completely believable that such an odd duck can become the suave, cultured (though still crazy) man we see at the end of the film. It should go without saying that his Ripley is alluring (minus the psychopathy): just watch his performance of "My Funny Valentine."
Damon's talent for convincingly playing two very different sides of one person is exactly what Steven Soderbergh needed for The Informant!, a movie that begins as a comedy about a would-be whistleblower who finds himself in over his head. By the end, though, it's a painful look at a man suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness. (Yeah, you never saw that coming from the wacky trailer.) Damon can be hilarious, especially when playing dorks, and he holds his own against noted funny people like Joel McHale and Patton Oswalt. But the slide into the darker side of Mark Whitacre's psyche never feels forced; it's more like a glimpse behind the curtain of manic laughs at the frightened man making the jokes.