Blu-ray Review: Good Will Hunting 15th Anniversary

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant | CAST: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Stellan Skarsgard, John Mighton
BLU-RAY RELEASE DATE: 8/21/2012 | PRICE: Blu-ray $14.99
BONUSES: commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, documentary, music video, Oscar montage
SPECS: R | 126 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, German, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Given how ubiquitous they’ve become in movies, it’s hard to believe it’s only been 15 years since Matt Damon (The Adjustment Bureau) and Ben Affleck (The Company Men) rocketed to fame with their joint writing project/starring vehicle Good Will Hunting.

Good Will Hunting

Robin Williams (l.) and Matt Damon star Good Will Hunting.

The boys’ Oscar-winning screenplay was so savvy and beyond their years, we learn in a new retrospective, “Good Will Hunting 15 Years Later,” the Hollywood scuttlebutt was it was penned by a much more accomplished scribe (namely the legendary William Goldman). But despite the script, the production was no fait accompli. It took the maneuverings of Kevin Smith, who received an executive producer credit, to get the project into the hands of green-lighters Miramax before the wunderkinds lost the rights. Smith, producer Chris Moore, Damon, Affleck and director Gus Van Sant (Milk) expound on the circuitous route to Oscar gold in the 60-minute documentary, which is thoughtfully edited to include memorable clips as the cast and crew discuss them. Robin Williams (Dead Poets Society) also gives his take on the production and his Academy Award-winning role as Will’s scarred therapist, Sean. The new documentary is a true highlight of the Blu-ray special edition.

There’s also a short look back by Damon, who says it took him three or four years to calm down and assimilate all the changes that occurred in his life as a result of selling the script. The rest of the extras are carried over from Miramax’s 2003 Collector’s Series DVD edition, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth another look or listen before spooling up the feature. They include commentary by Van Sant, Damon and Affleck, an older behind-the-scenes featurette, and 11 deleted scenes with optional commentary.

The movie itself has never looked better, and will be a revelation to those haven’t seen the film recently, be it on the old DVD or on cable. The colors are rich, and the many close-ups are full of texture. The 5.1 DTS-HD track isn’t showy, but delivers every word of dialogue—even Will’s machine-gun monologues—succinctly.

Stars aligned to bring Good Will Hunting to the screen, and even if Damon and Affleck were already on their way to becoming movie fixtures, it makes for an interesting study of what can occur when great talent meets a risk-taking studio mogul. Fifteen years on, this remarkable, resonant film is well worth revisiting.


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About Gary

Gary Frisch has been contributing laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray reviews to Video Business magazine, Home Theater Magazine, Home Theater Buyer’s Guide, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater and the DVD Guide for more than 14 years. He still has a collection of more than 40 laserdiscs, along with a working auto-reverse LD player, but thinks Blu-ray is da bomb and anxiously awaits the original Star Wars trilogy so he can buy it for the fifth time.