Promised Land starring Matt Damon and Frances McDormand opens in theaters this weekend and is expected to do well. We saw the film a few weeks ago at a pre-screening. Promised Land goes where the documentary Gas Land did not. Gas Land's Josh Fox received much praise for his documentary exposing his perspective on natural gas drilling to a wider audience - Promised Land brings it to an even wider audience.
The film was written by Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Dave Eggers while being directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk). The film works to make the case that extracting the natural gas below private properties has a hidden cost to making poor farmers into millionaires. The process of extracting the natural gas is hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking. America is often seen as to natural gas what Saudia Arabia is to oil. With America's huge reserves, many would like to see America exploit it as a cleaner fuel for cars and trucks to use instead of gasoline and diesel.
The story of the film shows Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) working for a natural gas company with the task of getting farmers to sell the rights to the natural gas found below their properties via lease. It is a win-win for both the natural gas company and the farmers as both do well financially. Targeting financially hard hit areas of the country, Butler and Thomason easily sign up local farmers; that is until Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook) stands up and suggests the farmers take another look at the potential harm it could do to their farms. Holbrook seems to want to put the brakes on the good times starting with his role in Wall Street playing Lou Mannheim.
Ultimately most farmers go for the gold, signing leases with the natural gas company even as John Krasinski's character Dustin Noble enters the fray with his single person environmental concern. Noble cozies up to the local farmers, as did Butler, to get in their good graces and tell the story of his lost farm due to fracking. But all is not what it seems.
The film did not hold enough interest for me to pay to see the movie and frankly, many would be better off waiting for the Netflix version rather than heading out into the cold for what ends up being a mediocre film at best. It has an excellent cast, however the story line lacks interest for the average movie goer.