Elysium (2013)

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In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.
On a visceral level, it mostly succeeds: Damon is a solid lead (though Foster is awful), great visuals and soundscapes immerse you in its frightening future world(s), and the action sequences know how to amp up the tension (see the data heist; twisting climax). Its emotional backstory and Earth vs. Elysium big picture lack subtlety though, and the latter feels implausible in the end (see the easy everything is happy ending), severely weakening the otherwise well-paced and compelling narrative.
6.5/10 (Alright)
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The Departed (2006)

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An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston. (IMDb)

The double-deception plot is almost too perfect, given all the suspense and intrigue it generates, and with DiCaprio’s violent Billy and Damon’s more subtly unscrupulous Colin, offers a nuanced take on good guy and bad guy archetypes that’s further complicated by a smoky love triangle sub-plot and capped off by a bloody, twist-filled final act (the final shot was admittedly a bit much). Colourful dialogue and great gritty music and cinematography round out this impeccably acted crime drama.

8.3/10

The Martian (2015)

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An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. (IMDb)

A skimming over of emotions and the consequences of time (particularly with the crew’s decision to go back) are the only standout flaws in this exhilarating thriller featuring a fast-paced back-and-forth between satisfying survival science-ing on Mars (Damon’s Mark adds a wry wit to the proceedings) and tense rescue-planning on Earth (a refreshingly diverse cast shines here). Any lack of suspense in the quickly solved conflicts of the first half is made up for in the nail-biting climax.

8.5/10

Rounders (1998)

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A young man is a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks. (IMDb)

The many poker scenes throughout here are certainly entertaining, with Damon’s soft voiceovers filling you in on all the fascinating features of the game, but they aren’t enough to make up for a plot that feels more like a poker player’s pipe dream than a legitimate drama: It’s too easy and cliche and fumbles the potential of its two interesting lead characters (Norton’s Worm especially begged for more study). All told, it’s a good flick–just needed more focus on the story and less on the poker.

6.8/10

Good Will Hunting (1997)

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Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life. (IMDb)

Powerful turns all around deliver scene after scene of raw and potent dialogue, seen most notably in Will and Sean’s widely varied but always intense emotional moments in therapy, but also in each of their secondary relationships with Skylar and Gerald, respectively. Mixed into the moving character studies that arise is thought-provoking discourse on dealing with the past, fulfilling potential, and finding purpose. This rich script is iced nicely with a beautiful acoustic soundtrack.

8.4/10

Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)

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Danny Ocean rounds up the boys for a third heist, after casino owner Willy Bank double-crosses one of the original eleven, Reuben Tishkoff. (IMDb)
Convoluted intro aside, the con job here is arguably–despite its unconvincing foundation–the crew’s most memorable: A delightful many-layered sabotage that pushes the boys outside their box to Mexico and even back to an old foe, sees the other 10 (minus Rusty) get a true chance at the spotlight, and moves them into a more satisfying and refreshing Robin Hood/anarchistic mindset. The dialogue and editing here aren’t on the same level as 11 and 12, but the caper might just be the best.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Daniel Ocean recruits one more team member so he can pull off three major European heists in this sequel to Ocean’s 11. (IMDb)
The great style from the first film is still present here in the artsy titles, delicious dialogue, and rambunctious soundtrack, but the substance is different: There’s more comedy and humbling mishaps (the Julia Roberts scene is great), but there are also more characters (an overload), and a disappointing lack of actual heists considering the wealth of other plot material that’s jammed in. It’s a bit of a messy story, with a weak climax to boot, but the film still doesn’t fail to entertain.
7/10 (Good)