Promised Land Reviews
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.
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.
Great Film! Here's a good little movie. Interesting story, extremely well written, directed and acted. Helicopter shots add to the beautiful location cinematography. Great use of music, some original. This movie is not about the environmental devastation caused by fracking. It's about the predatory practices used by industry to gain access to our backyards and how communities loose their way in gasland and are torn apart. Go see it, very good!!!
Corporate salesman Steve Butler (Damon) arrives in a rural town with his sales partner, Sue Thomason (McDormand). 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 (Holbrook) with support from a grassroots campaign led by another man (Krasinski) who counters Steve both personally and professionally.
Nate's Grade: B-
If you miss the credits of 'Promised Land', you may think it's the latest work of Cameron Crowe or Jason Reitman. Both those directors seem to be building their careers around the 'Local Hero' idea of soulless corporate men finding themselves with the help of simple everyday folk. The credits reveal this instead to be the work of Gus Van Sant but they also contain a disturbing revelation; the funding for the film came courtesy of Abu Dhabi. This may be a tirade against natural gas drilling but let's not kid ourselves, it's equally a propaganda piece for the oil industry. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" would seem to be Van Sant's justification but it leaves a nasty, oily, taste in the mouth.
It's testament to Damon's affability that, despite the dubious nature of his character, we find ourselves rooting for him to succeed. This is the film's major problem though as this clearly isn't the intention of the film-makers. The script, penned by actors Damon and Krasinski, is riddled with issues. There's a romantic subplot that comes across as far more superficial than you're meant to believe. The seeds of numerous other subplots involving the small-town folks are sown but never come to fruition. Worst of all is a final act plot twist that comes across as ludicrous. There's always something annoying about millionaire Hollywood types telling us commoners that some things are more important than money and that's exactly what you get here.
In spite of all these grievances, I have to confess I enjoyed 'Promised Land'. Even though it wasn't Damon's intention, I found myself charmed by his character.
For almost all of its length, "Promised Land" manages to balance its critique of the natural gas industry, how it manages to leverage impoversished communities for profit and in particularly the invidious practice of hydrofracking with a more personal story. It also helps that both sides of the debate are represented. In playing a heel who ironically has disdain for small town people(compared to his partner who sees it as just another job whlle up against a true believer), Damon excels and McDormand is almost as good, even singing at one point, though not at all well. And then at the eleventh hour, there is a plot twist, while not entirely unexpected or unbelievable, still manages to turn what had been a reasonable discussion into something much more pedantic, followed by The Speech. As the guy says, you should have just gotten into the car.
A well-intentioned, nicely acted yet somewhat preachy and vanilla film (Yep, I'm gonna go for the easy pun here and call it PROMISED BLAND), it feels relevant to our economically troubled times without ever achieving a good dramatic boil. Enter Damon and Frances McDormand, two corporate closers shipped into a small farming community to buy out the land. Frakking's on their mind, wherein their company will drill for oil in an ecologically questionable fashion. Everyone seems to be excited about the financial prospects of the deal, until Hal Holbrook challenges our dynamic duo, further bolstered by a young and mysterious environmentalist (Krasinski) who tries to galvanize the townfolk in the opposite direction.
It's a lightly comedic, yet fairly passionate look at the dilemma so many honest workers face in this country right now. Do they hang onto their pride of working the land handed down to them for generations, or do they see the writing on the wall and sell out? I truly enjoyed watching Damon struggle with his conscience while McDormand remains steadfast in declaring that she's just punching a clock to do her job. Damon has one electrifying scene when he faces off against a group of farmers, and his speech resonated with me long after the film ended. He also nicely underplays the big "11th Hour" moment. As his career progresses, he's become a wonderful character actor. All told, it's a fairly astute snapshot our economic condition.
Van Sant tries his best to put his stamp on the proceedings, with unexpected music choices (no obvious country music pandering) and his usual lovely driving shots, but most of the scenes consist of quiet conversations in hazily-lit farmhouses. There's a low-key heartland vibe to everything. It's the HOOSIERS of Issue-driven films.
The main conflict resides between Damon and Krasinski, and their sparring never reaches any great dramatic heights. It feels like two frat boys telling "Yo' Mamma" jokes over a few beers, instead of the high stakes at play. Their performances aren't bad, in fact, Damon is immensely appealing and highly skilled at making you somehow root for his corporate wonk. Holbrook is solid, much in the same way he was in INTO THE WILD, capping off a great career with his gentle wisdom. A nice surprise is Titus Welliver, typically cast in villain roles, as McDormand's romantic interest. It's a small but memorable role of a storekeeper, but it unfortunately never really goes anywhere. Lucas Black (the little kid from SLING BLADE all grown up), could have dialed back the cornpone a tad. He's straight out of HEE HAW. McDormand, however, runs away with the picture in a performance that never once hits a false note. In fact, has she ever in her entire career? This woman cannot help but open up a can of "REAL" on any film she touches.
Linus Sandgren, a Swedish cinematographer fairly new to American cinema, brings a nice, real touch, especially in a rainsoaked, poorly-planned town fair. He and Production Designer Daniel B. Clancy never condescend in their choices, giving us a Midwest that actually feels like the Midwest. I'm sure Van Sant misses the great D.P., Harris Savides, who sadly passed away in October, and was his frequent collaborator, but Sandgren certainly establishes himself as one to watch, despite the limited opportunities for an original artistic achievement here.
Staying true to its Midwest aesthetic, PROMISED LAND exposes some dark truths about this country yet often pulls its punches. Instead of a hard-hitting film, we're given a light slap. It's a good, not great, film that's as workmanlike as its subject matter.
The chief problem with Promised Land is the script. Everything about Promised Land feels predictable, there is no sense of ambiguity or fairness. Instead, it comes across as preachy, exceedingly liberal, and condescending. The way the townsfolk react, the melodrama of the third act, the stilted, and heavy handed dialogue, all of it feels manipulative. Add to this the fact that the film features little else than condemnations of fraking, as none of the human elements that it attempts to inject, poorly so, feel real or involving at any level. The performances are all fine, with a charismatic Matt Damon, and the always great Frances McDormand, but there is nothing to the substance of the film that allows any of the actors to bring any vibrancy to their roles. Everything feels by-the-book, conventional, one-note, and agenda-driven. Above, it's simply boring.
The film entertains just fine, and such entertainment value really helps in getting the final product by, yet after a while, as with plenty of other Gus Van Sant films, all of that fun dies down a bit, never to slip into dullness, but nevertheless dip just enough in kick to bland things up a bit and somewhat distance investment. At the very least, this film's slow spells get to be bland enough to simply distance engagement value, leaving the film to, at least for a moment, find itself unable to fully sustain your attention, and it doesn't help that this film's story structure sometimes finds itself limply dragged out a bit by a degree of repetition that further distances emotional investment, and isn't exactly the only flaw in this film's script. I don't know if it's because Ben Affleck is a stronger writer than Matt Damon, who Affleck made look better, or because John Krasinski is a weaker writer than Damon, who Krasinksi drags down, but either way, the fact of the matter is that, in this film, we're definately not looking at the Oscar-winning script that stood behind "Good Will Hunting", for although Damon's and Krasinski's script is decently colorful, you can expect to see this film slip into quite a few writing hiccups, or, at the very least, plotting tropes, as this film is not too much more than nothing if not conventional, hitting one familiar plot and characterization beat after another, until predictability sets in, or at least seems to, as this film ends on a note whose weakness is hard to see coming. Okay, now, maybe this film's conclusion isn't quite as frustrating as some say, but it does offer a lapse in intelligence that certainly throws you off as a particular height in the superficiality that can, to one degree or another, be found more than it should throughout the film, establishing characters with only so many genuine layers, and delivering certain controversial themes rather heavy-handedly. This film is a liberal one, and while there are a few notes to this project's agenda that I find somewhat noble, I'm not entirely on board with this film's thematic depth, which is made all the more disoncerting by pieces of intelligence's going all too often met by pieces of superficiality that not only drain thematic depth of much in the way of subtlety, but dilute the full punch behind this film's reasonably promising story concept, thus the fair deal of thin spots in said story concept go brought more to attention. It's not like the film was to ever be too strong, as its story concept, while with potential, isn't without its relatively thin spots, yet a bit too much goes undercut by a flawed script and often kind of bland storytelling, until what remains of a promising plot is a cliched, somewhat superficial, overambitious and altogether barely all that memorable effort. Still, no matter how much the film disappoints, in a few ways, the final product never comes out so underwhelming that you can't stick with it, as it, as I said, succeeds just fine as entertainment, or at least as a visually handsome film.
Now, the film isn't exactly a stunning testament to photography, because it's decidedly not that kind of film, but for what it is, this film is quite the looker, with cinematographer Linus Sandgren delivering on a handsome emphasis on darker colors, though not to where lighting and color come off as oddly grimy, thus giving the film a kind of attractive warmth to its looks that liven up atmosphere a bit. The film isn't particularly remarkable in its visual style, but it is more handsome than expected, finding the right balance between bland and bleak in order to deliver on quite a bit of appealing visual calmness that may occasionally find itself stylized up enough to not entirely fit with this film's storytelling atmosphere of limited weight, but generally graces the final product with a distinct degree of aesthetic liveliness that backs up the also reasonably commendable, if limited degree of intellectual liveliness within the film's script. Again, as a writing team, Matt Damon and John Krasinski make more than a few errors, from plotting cliches to superficiality in this film's subject matter's thematic weight, which, in all fairness, I wouldn't have been entirely on board with, even without the heavy-handedness, due to its being a bit too liberal for my tastes, yet for every misstep, Damon and Krasinski turn in a strength, notably when it comes to the intelligence level, which may lapse at times, but often presents certain aspects behind this subject matter with about as much cleverness that can be found in a film this liberal. The film is genuinely interesting at times, when Damon and Krasinski really put some kick into their, by the liberals, rather washed brains, but really, if Damon and Krasinski do nothing else as writers, it's deliver on colorful punch-up, because even though Damon isn't turning in the lively snappers that he consistently delivered on when he teamed up with his good buddy, Ben Affleck, in his last effort with Gus Van Sant, there are still plenty of points in dialogue that catch your attention as genuinely clever, while certain moments in humor range from decent to surprisingly quite amusing. The film isn't quite as witty as it could have been, but there really is quite a bit of cleverness to, at the very least, the punch-up behind Damon's and Krasinski's script, a mess, but one that offers its share of intelligent moments to break up consistent color in punch-up that help in driving this film as an entertainment piece, truly brought to life by the fair deal of lively points in Gus Van Sant's storytelling, as well as carried by the color within this film's talented cast. This film's characters aren't as meaty in structure as they perhaps should have been, no matter how dramatically limited this film is, even in concept, yet the characters who power this film's story recieve about as much care as they can as hardly layered components to a somewhat thin story, and that's good, especially when these characters go brought to life by a myriad of colorful performers, all of whom share fine chemistry, as well as distinct charisma by their own individual rights. Now, the film isn't as considerably flawed as I make it sound,, but it could have been more, and yet, what the final product ultimately is is powered by colorful strengths that are perhaps stronger than I make them sound, not so much so that the final product comes off as all that rewarding, but certainly to where you end up with a film that is genuinely entertaining on the whole, regardless of its bland areas.
Overall, the film goes blanded up by slow spells, made all the worse by some repetitious plotting that taint Matt Damon's and John Krasinski's script, though decidedly not as much as cliches that spark predictability, and superficiality that leaves characters and themes to not go as thoroughly explored as they probably should be, thus emphasizing the story thinness that goes into making this film a disappointing one, but doesn't quite underwhelm enough to fully undercut what is done right with this film, a handsomely shot piece of entertainment that boasts a flawed, but sometimes genuinely intelligent script that, more than anything, turns in quite a bit of cleverness to dialogue and humor, - brought to life by lively areas in Gus Van Sant's storytelling, and a near-wealth of charisma within the cast - as well as enough nobility in ambition to make "Promised Land" a generally entertaining opus, though one that could have used more effort to back up ambition.
2.5/5 - Fair
In this R-rated drama, a multibillion-dollar company sends two of its top salesmen (Damon, Frances McDormand) to convince a small town's residents to lease their land for fracking rights.
Damon allows the rest of the cast to shine first, relegating himself to the rube role before a predictable close plays out. Even after kicking blockbusting ass as amnesiatic superspy Jason Borne, Damon perfectly embodies an Everyman quality like he was the lovechild of Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck. The story doesn't pose a Land of opportunity but, thanks to the taut direction of Damon's Good Will Hunting collaborator Gus Van Sant, the action never lags. Still, Damon and co-screenwriter Krasinski come up with a twist and romantic hook clever enough to keep even the most cynical filmgoers vested.
Bottom Line: Bourne mediocrity.
The main problem I had with Promised Land is that they made the main character, Steve Butler (Matt Damon), so unbelievably ignorant. He's a small town guy turned corporate ladder climber who thinks he's helping everyone out. He has no idea that fracking is as bad as it is and believes a big corporation dealing with energy sources is honest and good. It blew my mind the whole movie. There's no real dilemma here until the very end, then Promised Land cops out.
Matt Damon and John Krasinski are very entertaining actors, and both of them turn in wonderful performances. Damon and Frances McDormand have great chemistry as corporate salesmen who love their job and like each others company. The supporting cast is an extraordinary list of actors. Rosemarie DeWitt is the best little known actress in Hollywood. She does a lot of smaller movies and holds her ground every time she's paired with big named actors.
I just can't recommend Promised Land while it's in theaters, but would say if you want to see it on the movie channel when you don't have to pay for it, you may like it; and if you don't, at least you didn't fork over cash to watch it.