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96. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Good Will Hunting

January 16, 2018

Director: Gus Van Sant
Screenplay: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Starring: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård, Minnie Driver
Runtime: 126 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1998

 

★★★★☆

 

Good Will Hunting operates with a very traditional narrative, with a structure and pace to suit the finest Oscar contenders, but what elevates it above many of its contemporary pictures is its attention to rigorous detail.

 

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s screenplay is a developed and thoughtful reflection on what is earned and what is taken for granted, what feels right and what is to be expected of those with the weight of promise stacked up in from of them. It’s a bold and intricate tale told with all the rapid-fire pace of an Aaron Sorkin piece, but alleviated by its touch of humble humanity and humour that scatters itself throughout the dialogue with wit and precision – allowing the film to carry some naturally quotable and memorable one-liners and jokes.

 

The dialogue of which is delivered through some career-best performances. Skarsgård is up to his usual tricks, the Affleck brothers bring their Boston charm to their roles, while Damon burns bright at the story’s core as Will Hunting; a conflicted and damaged young man unburdened by purpose despite his incredible intellectual capabilities and prowess. He’s a blaze of emotion that flints like mercury through an entire spectrum of sensation in single scenes, and the scenes that he shares with the equally brilliant and subdued Minnie Driver is dazzling to watch. All the while Robin Williams quietly steals the show in a sterling and sorrowful supporting role that is probably the warmest he’s ever been as a natural performer onscreen.

 

Gus Van Sant’s direction is great, with a calm and well-shot pallet of presentation, but it’s the way that the screenplay is handled that allows the drama to peak – even with its second act weight it never becomes stiff or lifeless. Playing over Danny Elfman’s occasionally overwrought score, Good Will Hunting survives and endures because of its striving ambition and stirring emotional core displayed by some amazing performances.

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