"Promised Land"-- movie review
Release date: January 4, 2013
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Titus Welliver and Hal Holbrook
Political messages are no stranger in today's Hollywood. Republican or Democrat, actors and filmmakers can't help but integrate their personal message into their movies, especially when it comes to the environment. In "Promised Land", Damon plays Steve Butler, a salesman for Global Crosspower Solutions, a natural gas company. His job, along with his partner Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), is to go into small towns with a big smile on his face and convince people to sell their land to allow for the drilling of natural gas. He is, maybe without realizing it, a puppet con artist. He smiles, shakes hands and offers these people, who are struggling already, the promise of possibly millions of dollars in return for the right to tear up their land.
Just when they think their plan to buy this town off are a done deal, they are met with the natural enemy of corporate America -- the Liberal environmentalist, Dustin Noble, played by John Krasinski. Dustin claims he is from a small town bought out for natural gas drilling but the process, known as "fracking" -- which is a controversial process -- poisoned his family's land as well as that of his neighbors, began killing off the cattle and ultimately lead to the death of the small town. He and Steve begin to go one on one to try and win over the town, which has decided to vote whether or not to let Global come in and drill. To make things interesting, Dustin may not be exactly what he seems, which puts Steve in a precarious position where he begins to wonder which side he is really on.
From an acting standpoint, there are fine performances all throughout this movie. Matt Damon is thoroughly establishing himself as one of the most relatable and likable leading men in Hollywood today and he delivers another endearing performance as the charming but naive Steve Butler. Krasinski, who has proven he can hold his own this top names in the acting game, has great presence here, showing his movie career could take off once "The Office" comes to an end. There are a number of fantastic actors who contribute moments as well, from Hal Holbrook as the crazy old guy who stands up let his neighbors know that Steve and his company aren't as great as they claim to be; to Titus Welliver as the owner of guns and grocery store, who tries his best to win over Sue.
Written by Damon and Krasinski, the film puts the audience in the front row of the debate between the dangers of corporate America on small town living and the impact of Liberal environmentalists. The only problem is the message and the debate overshadows some very interesting and well written characters. At one time, Damon was set to direct, but ultimately stepped back, allowing Gus Van Sant to take over. Damon and Van Sant previously worked together on "Good Will Hunting", which Damon also wrote and won an Oscar for Best Screenplay with his buddy Ben Affleck.
Unfortunately, the duo is unable to recapture that magic here. The film plods along at times feels a lot longer than the hour and forty minute running time, focusing more on the dangers of fracking and the lengths these big corporations will go to pull the wool over America's eyes, rather than exploring the relationships between the characters. While the script engages the audience in the debate, it never really favors one side over the other. It will make you think, especially for moviegoers who live or have lived in rural communities facing these decisions.
"Promised Land" is an enjoyable film that might be better suited for a rental on a quiet night at home. Damon and Krasinski are top notch and really help draw you in but your enjoyment will greatly depend on how much brow beating you can withstand on the dangers these corporations pose to not only the environment, but to the livelihood of the families affected in these buyouts.
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