‘Promised Land’ review

‘Promised Land’
2012; R; 106 minutes
(in second run now, estimated DVD release of May)

  • What was it about?: Ostensibly, it’s about a duo sent by a natural gas company to secure rights to drill and “frack” from land owners in a small, poor town. Though framed as a sort of ecological dilemma, it’s really about corporate greed. The twist here is that the protagonist is one of the natural gas company shysters, who truly believes he’s doing good for these needy people.
  • Did it suck?: No, it didn’t suck. But it could have been much stronger.
  • Why?:  It starts as an interesting, balanced approach to this ethical quandary — one where you care about people on both sides. Damon tries to convince a townsperson for whom he’s developed affections that “I’m not a bad person,” no less than four times. But with a sudden shift in the third act, we’re given no choice but to root for one side. The movie was stronger when its agenda was less clear. In the end, it’s the wonderful, wry performance by Damon’s gas-industry partner, Frances McDormand, that’s most interesting. She faces no dilemma. “It’s just a job,” she says. Anyone expecting engaging debate about the ecological implications of fracking will be disappointed to find a generic conspiracy theory and the same old “bad company” shenanigans we’ve seen countless times. I expected better from director Gus Van Sant and screenwriting partners Damon and co-star John Krasinski.

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