Matt Damon's Best Movie: The Departed

[With The Adjustment Bureau hitting theaters on Friday, at Cinema Blend we've been thinking a lot about Matt Damon, and the star power that has kept him in the public eye for 15 years now. Starting off as a fresh-faced kid in the mid-90s, morphing into a bona fide action hero in the early 00s and snagging two Oscar nominations (and one win) along the way, he's had a career so varied that you can get into a lengthy argument with a friend about which film is his best, and both of you can be right. Which is exactly what we did, finally deciding we'd each pick a favorite and sing its praises. Continuing our series is Eric, who brings us to the corrupt Boston streets for The Departed. Here’s Eric…]

By the time 2006 rolled around Matt Damon had become an entirely different kind of actor. Previously best known for dramas like Good Will Hunting and Rounders, he underwent an incredible transformation earlier in that decade, becoming a full-fledged action star as amnesiac former CIA operative Jason Bourne. But as great as Damon’s stint as a hero had been, any actor will tell you that it’s always more fun to play the villain, which makes Martin Scorsese’s The Departed Matt Damon’s best film to date.

Playing a slime-ball, rat-fink asshole who secretly works for the Boston mob while working his way up the ladder in the Boston Police Department, Damon’s Colin Sullivan is the kind of villain you love to hate for the simple fact that he is a mirror image of the story’s hero, Billy Costigan (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). While Billy lives in constant fear of being caught, popping stress pills and contemplating suicide constantly, Colin is living the high life in an apartment overlooking the Massachusetts State House, earning the admiration of all his peers and doing whatever he feels like with total impunity. Having the opportunity, any audience member would love to punch Colin in the face repeatedly and would smile goofily while doing so.

Bile-inducing rage aside, what completes Colin Sullivan as a character is his flaws, namely his impotence. Jason Bourne rivals James Bond in the “manly men” department, but this douchebag can’t get a boner. It’s a brilliant little detail because it’s a flaw typically kept behind closed doors, but Scorsese and screenwriter William Monahan bring it to the forefront, giving the guy one final kick in the balls when you realize that his girlfriend’s baby isn’t his, but rather his heroic counterpart’s. It’s a secret shame that allows the audience all kinds of delicious schadenfreude.

I first saw The Departed on opening weekend while I was going to college in Boston and the entire theater was packed. While the audience was absolutely crushed when Billy met his end in the elevator, there was a roar of applause like I’ve never heard in a movie theater before when a bullet was put between Colin Sullivan’s eyes. It takes a truly magnificent performance and brilliant character to get an audience to cheer when they see a great guy and actor like Matt Damon get killed.

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[Check back for more in our Matt Damon's Best Movie series, coming right here later this week.]

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.