The Evolution Of Matt Damon

Team America: World Police (2004)


OK, so not a Damon performance strictly speaking, but this one has haunted the actor for years.

While other film stars and political figures have a slightly more satiric ribbing, Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to bestow learning difficulties on Matt Damon (his only ability amounts to shouting his own name) after seeing how his puppet turned out.

Brainiac Damon? Maybe the joke has endured so long because it's such a randomly stupid portrayal.

The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Terry Gilliam cast Damon and Heath Ledger against type as Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, with Damon as the swaggering lad and Ledger playing the bookish nerd.

The fairytale authors are fraudulent ghostbusters here, until they're called upon to tackle a real witch. As with a lot of Gilliam's films, there are several moments of genius in amidst anotherwise haphazard adventure.

Brainiac Damon? His brother does most of the thinking.

Syriana (2005)

Traffic screenwriter Steven Gaghan directed this expansive look at the reach of the oil industry. Matt Damon plays an energy analyst whose personal tragedy gets mixed up in his business affairs.

He's on top form, surrounded by a quality cast (this is the movie for which George Clooney won his Oscar), and Gaghan ensures that this dense, weighty movie is propelled along at breakneck speed, focusing on the human faces of a global crisis.

Brainiac Damon? He brings a convincing, fast-talking expertise to his character.

The Departed (2006)

It's always interesting to see Damon as the villain, and in Martin Scorsese's Infernal Affairs remake he's menacing, conniving, but never totally hissable.

The film generates its heat from the opposing undercover missions of Damon's crook and DiCaprio's copper, despite the fact they barely share the screen. Throw in some scintillating supporting players (Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin showboat, Vera Farmiga holds things together) and this becomes one of the tensest crime thrillers of recent years.

Brainiac Damon? He's an on-the-ball bad guy.

The Good Shepherd (2006)

Robert De Niro's mostly-based-on-fact story of the birth of the CIA is fascinating, even if it is a little cold, with Damon giving his full commitment to a role that requires him to be unswervingly dedicated.

He plays Edward Wilson, a fictional character heavily inspired by real-life figure James Jesus Angleton. The film can feel episodic, with countless subplot diversions, but it remains interesting throughout.

Brainiac Damon?
We first meet him as a Yale student, before he rises through the government ranks.

Ocean's Thirteen (2007)

The final installment in Steven Soderbergh's crime-is-cool series went some way to rectifying the disapproval aimed at Twelve by pretty much being a rehash of Eleven .

Those who dislike the movies' lack of tension and smug self-awareness aren't going to be appeased here, but for everyone else, the slick fun, and a shouty-as-hell performance from Al Pacino, are guaranteed to inspire face-filling grins.

Brainiac Damon? His seduction technique lacks finesse.

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The final (for now) installment in the saga didn't provide much of an answer to the enigma of Jason Bourne (or David Webb, if we must), but as an intelligent actioner it's damn near unbeatable.

As we've come to expect, there's intelligence and surprises, but no shortage of innovative action: one hand-to-hand combat scene in particular leaves you literally gasping for breath. With an unexpected emotional weight in the climax, this is a satisfying close to Bourne's screen saga.

Brainiac Damon? Three films in and the amnesiac assassin still has some tricks up his sleeve.

The Informant! (2009)

Under the direction of Steve Soderbergh (yet again), Damon delivers what's possible the performance of his career, completely disappearing beneath the middle-aged man trappings (dodgy hair, 'tache, glasses, suits and a gut).

His voiceover is dryly hilarious, too, and he finds the pathos in the man who was whistleblowing and embezzling from his company at the same time. His performance is the sole reason to watch the film though, because there's little else on offer besides his awesomeness.

Brainiac Damon? He becomes deluded to the point you're not even sure it's OK to laugh at him.

Invictus (2009)

This didn't turn out to be the awards magnet people were expecting though Damon (having a decent go at a South African accent) and Morgan Freeman both received Oscar nominations for their performances.

Even if you're not familiar with the real-life events (and Clint Eastwood sticks pretty closely to the facts), you'll be able to predict exactly where it's going. But, if it's a feelgood sports movie with added political resonance you're after, you could do a lot worse.

Brainiac Damon?
He's obviously got a good tactical head for rugby.

Green Zone (2010)

Damon and Bourne II and III director Paul Greengrass tackled the topic of elusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Despite the 'Bourne goes to war' sell, Green Zone didn't fair a great deal better than most Iraq-themed movies at the box office.

While some critics have slammed the film's portrayal of real events, there's no denying it works as an action film set within a recognisable context, pairing the big issues with some extremely tense and involving set pieces.

Brainiac Damon? He doesn't have full possession of the facts, which kickstarts his quest for knowledge.

Matt Maytum
Editor, Total Film

I'm the Editor at Total Film magazine, overseeing the running of the mag, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.