REVIEW: PROMISED LAND
SYNOPSIS: Promised Land is the new contemporary drama directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk). Matt Damon plays Steve Butler, an ace corporate salesman who is sent along with his partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), to close a key rural town in his company's expansion plans. With the town having been hit hard by the economic decline of recent years, the two outsiders see the local citizens as likely to accept their company's offer, for drilling rights to their properties, as much-needed relief. What seems like an easy job for the duo becomes complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) with support from a grassroots campaign led by another man (John Krasinski), as well as the interest of a local woman (Rosemarie DeWitt). Promised Land explores America at the crossroads where big business and the strength of small-town community converge.
REVIEW: I guess essentially this flick could be dubbed an anti-fracking film that brings consciousness to the masses with the notoriously controversial method of extracting natural gas by fracking rocks. Nevertheless, two time Academy Award nominee for best Director, Mr. Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, 1997), sets up another interesting melodrama-style mystery with his former collaborator, Matt Damon. It is certainly worth mentioning that Damon not only produces and stars in the movie, but also co-wrote the script with John Krasinski (The Office) who played the part of a morally-vacant villain.
In this somewhat touchy topic of fracking, it seems that the subject-matter probes in to areas of mainstream economic hot-buttons that have been affecting the once thriving farm-lands of America. Moreover, itís a familiar narrative that goes one step further and instead of simply being more of a conventional film pitting corporate villains against eco-green guys, the story delves somewhat deeper, exploring the moral conundrum of big-business offering economic support to depressed communities through questionable methods. And make no mistake; this is a quiet drama of social and personal relevance, about over-the-top corporate greed and immoral profit-seeking. Plus in a skillful, and not so subtly manner, it denounces corruption in the energy industry. Nevertheless, Promised Land is primarily a character-driven melodrama, albeit with undercurrents of environmental politics and sad portrayals of the rural American struggles.
Given Damonís extensive environmental advocacy, it seems that the natural gas fracking controversy was just a natural fit for him and certainly came as a timely issue. And as the central character in this flick, Damon gives a characteristically genuine performance. His character, despite its obvious flawed undertow, seems to have connected with the audience especially with the manner in which he plays the naive corporate salesman who is both extremely convincing and moving.
On the other hand, Van Sant has been quoted as saying that Promised Land is his opportunity to make a movie in the spirit of Frank Capra, but the maneuverings of Damon and Krasinskiís screenplay have done him a disservice, in meeting that goal, in my opinion. Moreover I certainly believe that with a more polished script that had a little more time spent on it, this flick could have elevated the story to an extraordinary cautionary environmental tale, rivaling the likes of Julia Robertsí Erin Brockovich (2000). In the end however, it is still a very satisfying crisis of conscience flick that will appeal to the environmentally conscious movie-goer, although I hate to admit, it might not do it for many others. All the same, Promise Land is worth the viewing and deserves three and a half out of five stars for content and relevance.
By Movi-Man Stan
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