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Promised Land (2013)



Average Rating: 5.9/10
Reviews Counted: 145
Fresh: 75 | Rotten: 70

The earnest and well-intentioned Promised Land sports a likable cast, but it also suffers from oversimplified characterizations and a frustrating final act.


Average Rating: 6.2/10
Critic Reviews: 37
Fresh: 18 | Rotten: 19

The earnest and well-intentioned Promised Land sports a likable cast, but it also suffers from oversimplified characterizations and a frustrating final act.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 19,780

My Rating

Movie Info

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

Apr 23, 2013


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February 5, 2014:
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January 3, 2013:
Video Interview with Cast of Promised Land: Rosemarie DeWitt
Promised Land is all about normal folks making tough decisions that might change their lives...


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All Critics (145) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (75) | Rotten (70) | DVD (1)

This is a solid if at times too conventional tale of a classic moral conflict.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Richard
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[It's mostly] a well-wrought drama that feels genuine as it goes about spinning a tale worthy of our challenging times.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Promised Land is more effective as an anti-fracking screed than as a drama.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Damon and McDormand are terrific as co-workers seeking the same goal, though they see their work from different points of view.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This isn't a movie about easy fixes, be they personal or political; it's a film about long-term problems.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Far too awkward and contrived a drama to change many hearts and minds.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Damon and Krasinski's script isn't completely solid, but it follows a believably wayward path to a lovely, muted ending.

November 5, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

An engaging film about the dangers of fracking and the crass manipulation employed by its proponents.

June 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

It's more middle of the road than transcendent, but Promised Land offers a quietly engaging and even-handed look at a controversial issue.

May 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Flix Capacitor
Flix Capacitor

The film never makes a convincing argument against fracking, probably because it's too busy being cloying.

May 13, 2013 Full Review Source: The Patriot Ledger
The Patriot Ledger

Gus Van Sant's Promised Land is an engaging performance-driven drama that works more often than not.

May 7, 2013 Full Review Source: We Got This Covered
We Got This Covered

... Van Sant's eye and sense of poetry no doubt elevate what's essentially an updated Frank Capra story ...

April 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

'You can't make natural gas from shale without fracking' doesn't quite have the same ring to it as 'You can't start a fire without a spark'.

April 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Birmingham Mail
Birmingham Mail

The pro-environment message here is more effective because of the film's subtlety, a casting twist featuring the likeable Matt Damon, and a script that doesn't insult its audience.

April 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Spectrum (St. George, Utah)
Spectrum (St. George, Utah)

There are some good scenes early on, and the conflict at the centre is real. But it's sentimental, Capraesque fare ...

April 21, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

underwhelming at best

April 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Racket
Film Racket

Thee film-makers' sincerity so indisputable, that Promised Land never entirely spins off the rails. It's hard to swallow, but easy to digest.

April 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Irish Times
Irish Times

Hydraulic fracturing might not be the most compelling subject for a movie, but it provides a topical backdrop for this engaging drama about ethics.

April 19, 2013 Full Review Source:

A gentle rather than dramatic film that, once the central argument is laid out, lacks real flair.

April 19, 2013 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

A flawed but watchable eco-drama - heavily indebted to a wittier anti-corporate movie, Local Hero, made 30 years ago.

April 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Mail [UK]
Daily Mail [UK]

Van Sant is no Frank Capra, so why is he trying so hard to be?

April 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

Not confident or bolshy enough about the subject, too aware of eco versus economic pros and cons ...

April 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

The latest film from Gus Van Sant is a thought-provoking and emotionally engaging smalltown drama with a strong script and a terrific central performance from co-writer Matt Damon.

April 18, 2013 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

A compelling glimpse into a world of corporate chicanery where unscrupulous business giants casually toss decent chaps like Butler into the fray to take the, er, frack.

April 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

The film means well, it just doesn't stir the soul.

April 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post

Northern Exposure with Jason Bourne. Which is a backhanded way of saying this is far from the challenging movie it promised to be.

April 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Audience Reviews for Promised Land

Co-written by co-stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski, this is a nicely low-key drama from versatile maverick director Gus Van Sant on an important, but controversial topic.

Steve Butler (Damon) works as a salesman for an energy corporation whose job is to go around with his partner Sue (Frances McDormand) to various economically devastated rural towns to secure drilling rights for the controversial natural gas acquisition process nicknamed "fracking".

All seems well and good for these slick corporate players, that is, until they come up against a respected, intelligent, and resourceful teacher (Hal Holbrook), and an environmental activist just as slick as them (John Krasinski).

Besides getting into the ethics and morals of the fracking issue, the film is also, if not mainly, a human story. Both sides of the issue are presented in a thoughtful and balanced manner (for until near the end), but the film is mainly a look at one man's conflicted journey as he rediscovers his conscience.

Aside from the profanity, this really comes off like a contemporary Frank Capra film. And you know? I'm okay with that. The film is pretty good, and good arguments for both sides are made, but then, the film can't help but dip into a twist which starts to unravel everything. And yeah, the main basic plot line is the typical "crisis of conscience" scenario, but it is well played, despite all the cliches and everything that comes with it.

The script is mostly decent though, despite its shortcomings. The performances are where it's really at. Damon, McDormand, Krasinski, and Holbrook are perfectly cast, and their performances are likewise very believable and solid. Rosemarie DeWitt is fine as a potential love interest for Damon, but there's really not a whole lot to her character, and this is just a typical sort of role we get far too often in these kinds of movies, and in many movies in general. Other supporters are fine, but none of them really stand out like the main players do. The film also has some good cinematography and a fitting score by Danny Elfman that I rather like.

I think this is a good film, and I'll give it a mild recommendation. I just think that things could have been a whole lot better had the WHOLE thing been as thoughtful as the majority of the running time of the proceedings. But here's to hoping we get more of a big screen presence from Krasinski who shows a lot of promise here, with Damon as his mentor, much like how Van Sant was with him.
August 2, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

5 Stars for Matt Damon; 4 stars for the movie. Matt, great actor, never a letdown. Frances McDormand wonderful. Intelligent script, and really fine performances by all. Don't be distracted by the debate over fracking. This movie is really about a man trying to get in contact with his conscience, and soul. Matt Damon's character tells himself, and others, that he's a good man, but he knows he's sold himself to the corporation. A very moving role for him..a very well done job by him....
July 2, 2013

Super Reviewer

The performances are charming, but the storytelling is a little too tricky.
June 24, 2013

Super Reviewer


A few years ago I watched a movie called "Gasland" about natural gas fraking(I think I spelled that right) here in the U.S. Basically when companies get naturdal gas from the ground, bad stuff can happen. This is a movie that deals with that and dramatizes it. Matt Damon stars as a Natural Gas salesman whose job is to sell a town on the idea of extracting natural gas from their town. While in the process a school teacher objects and challenges him to a town vote because of the dangers that could come from the process. Enter John Kransinski as an environmentalist who comes to the town to help the teacher and stop Damon and the company. It may sound boring, and some of it is, but overall I thought it was interesting. I liked the scenes with Kransinski and Damon, and I liked the little twist towards the end. It's not a perfect movie, and a lot of people probably won't like it, but I think it's worth a rental.
May 30, 2013
Everett Johnson

Super Reviewer

    1. Steve Butler: Everything we have is on the table now. And that's just not ours to lose.
    – Submitted by Frances H (3 months ago)
    1. Dustin Noble: You're going to want to stop asking questions now, Steve. You're at the big kids' table.
    – Submitted by Frances H (3 months ago)
    1. Alice: Let's see... 40, married, marketing, two kids.
    2. Steve Butler: 38, stripper/waitress, born to be a singer.
    3. Alice: F**k you! I'm a teacher!
    4. Steve Butler: No, I was talking about me.
    – Submitted by Moe J (20 months ago)
    1. Steve Butler: We are a nine billion dollar company... do you know what we're capable of?
    2. Dustin Noble: Do you?
    – Submitted by Chris P (21 months ago)
    1. Steve Butler: This town, this life... it's dying.
    – Submitted by Chris P (21 months ago)
View all quotes (5)

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