“Promised Land” Film Review

Promised Land, Film Review

Director: Gus Van Sant
Writers: John Krasinski (screenplay), Matt Damon (screenplay)

Matt Damon … Steve Butler
John Krasinski … Dustin Noble
Hal Holbrook … Frank Yates
Frances McDormand … Sue Thomason
Rosemarie DeWitt … Alice

 

 

 

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing “Promised Land”

The story centers around  Steve Butler (Damon) who has caught the eyes of top management at “Global” an energy company that specializes in obtaining natural gas trapped under ground through a process known as  “fracking.” Steve Butler success lies in his ability to not only “Sign-up” a large percent of the land owners, but to close the deals quicker and at a lower cost then any other rep. Butler (Damon) and his partner Sue Thomason (McDormand arrive in a farming town in Pennsylvania, that like much of rural America, is struggling to keep their family farm above water. So many of the characters take pride in the number of generations through which the land has passed and fear that they will be unable to hold onto the land “Promised” to their children.

Butler, we learn came from a town, and a life, very similar to that of the people he is now determined to sign up land-owners to accept Global’s  offer, for drilling rights to their properties.  Butler is so good at what he does because he truly believes that these towns, have been hit so hard by economic decline are not not coming back. He tells the story of his own town, and how once the Caterpillar assembly plant closed, the town quickly died. That the without industry, the idea of a town surviving solely on family farmers was a fantasy, one he could no longer buy. He was offering the town’s last chance.  As a farmer tells him “We are to poor to buy anything, and the land is the last thing we have to sell.”

At first it seems this is just going to be another domino falling after a light tap by Butler and Thomason, until a  High School science teacher (Holbrook) during a town hall meeting, raises the question of the safety of Fracking. Their sales pitch becomes more complicated when an unknown environmental advocate (Krasinski) starts a grassroots campaign motivated by a tale of his family losing their dairy farm after all of the cows died as a result of the chemicals Global used to extract the gas.   There is a powerful scene when Dustin Noble (Krasinski) goes to the local school and demonstrates to the children  the process of drilling and injecting water and unknown chemicals into the ground  in order to fracture shale and get the natural gas.

As the story unfolds at is clear the Butler’s fight  is internal as well as against others. We learn that his boots had been his grandfather’s, and his unwillingness to part with them, symbolizes his continued connection to the land.

I knew from “Good Will Hunting” that Matt Damon could write. Apparently, so can John Krasinski (Jim on “The Office”). Their script was truly remarkable, even though it suffers from a lack of development at times. The performance from Damon, Krasinski, and veteran, Hal Holbrook were all excellent. Those things, along with The beautiful landscapes and brilliant story arch allowed for a very good film that is likely to get snubbed at the Academy Awards.

Though the rating might not be as phenomenal as other films, I encourage people to see this film. It’s sure to create a great discussion and you WILL NOT EXPECT THIS ENDING.

3 1/2 stars A-/B+ (I still prefer this to “Lincoln”)

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