Good Will Hunting [Blu-ray]
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Back in the early 90s, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck started writing a script that they could star in, as at the time they were struggling actors who couldn't land the roles they wanted most. With a few lucky breaks, and some help from Kevin Smith, their script made its way into the hands of Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, who reluctantly green lighted the project, with Damon and Affleck in their written in roles, followed by the addition of Robin Williams and Gus Van Sant. The resulting bargain based film ended up grossing over $200 million worldwide, raking in nine Oscar nominations, and taking home two; best supporting actor for Robin Williams, and best screenplay for Damon and Affleck. Good Will Hunting is a masterpiece, and the new Blu-ray release is a worthy release.
After a hard, lonely childhood, Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has decided to continue down a destructive path, constantly fighting anyone and everyone despite the fact that he is an absolute genius. At his janitorial job at Harvard, he has taken to secretly solving impossibly hard math proofs left in the hallway by math superstar Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård). When Lambeau discovers that Hunting has been solving the proofs, he tracks him down and enlists him in the math department after bailing him out of jail. As part of Hunting's probation, he must also see a therapist regularly. Unwilling to face his own problems, he mocks and offends a stream of therapists, until he meets his match in Professor Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), who isn't willing to submit to Hunting's antics. Parallel to these events, while out on the town with his friends (Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser), Hunting met a girl named Skylar (Minnie Driver), who he promptly falls in love with, but is too scared to commit to. Through his unorthodox therapy sessions, and conversations with everyone in his life, Hunting realizes that he's been cheating himself out of success, and only has to commit to turn things around.
Damon and Affleck's baby is a wondrous masterpiece that's success has been nearly impossible to recreate for either of them since. Van Sant conjured a set of absolutely astounding performances that managed to side step their characters' clichés to bring some serious emotional weight to the film. Now 15 years old, the film has aged gallantly, thanks to its timeless thematic content dealing with self acceptance, friendship built on honesty, and unfaltering love. The rejection of heartfelt compassion at every turn is hard to bare, but the journey to acceptance is an affecting and tumultuous ride. To add to the intense, and sometimes reflective moods, Danny Elfman's very appropriate orchestral work, and a set of tracks by the late, great Elliot Smith are in place, both of which were nominated for Oscars for their work on the film.
Miramax and Lionsgate have put together a rather stellar “Special Edition” release for the film. The visual presentation is very pleasing, with extreme clarity and balanced colors. There are many close-ups throughout the film that highlight this, especially when Williams's bearded face appears. The soundtrack is an uncompressed DTS-HD master track in 5.1, and though it is a fairly low key film, it is a very fitting aural experience. The Elfman and Smith soundtrack is brilliant and full sounding, and minute bits of separation are found throughout the film. As extras, we are given a commentary featuring Van Sant, Damon and Affleck that, like the film, is generally quite toned down, but it is full of production facts, and intelligent character analysis from the creators. There is a series of deleted scenes, including an alternative ending, all of which have optional commentary as well. A rather generic, and short, production featurette is included, along with the Academy Awards Best Picture montage, the music video for “Miss Misery”, the trailer for the film, and a brief behind the scenes featurette. The disc comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray case.
Good Will Hunting is a must see film, period. It launched the careers of Damon and Affleck, while reinvigorating Van Sant's, and placed Miramax at the top of the indie film game upon its release. It manages to skillfully, and exquisitely dissect the life of an orphan while letting us laugh, cry and fall in love with its leads, and for that, the new Blu-ray home release comes with my highest recommendation.
--Jordan M. Smith
Release Date: August 30, 2011