Promised Land


Promised Land

Critics Consensus

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



Reviews Counted: 152

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,343


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.2/5

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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 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.

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Matt Damon
as Steve Butler
John Krasinski
as Dustin Noble
Frances McDormand
as Sue Thomason
Hal Holbrook
as Frank Yates
Scoot McNairy
as Jeff Dennon
Terry Kinney
as David Churchill
Carla Bianco
as Waitress
Joe Coyle
as Michael Downey
Lexi Cowan
as Drew's Girl
Tim Guinee
as Drew Scott
Sara Lindsey
as Claire Allen
Garrett Ashbaugh
as Basketball Player
Max Schuler
as Carson Allen
Ken Strunk
as Gerry Richards
Gerri Bumbaugh
as Jesse the Bartender
Erin Baldwin
as Buddy's Waitress
Andrew Kuebel
as 6-year-old Boy
Justin Cook
as Guitar #1
Bruce Craven
as Guitar #2
Gene Williams
as Keyboard
Dan Anders
as Large Man
Lucas Black
as Paul Geary
Sandy Medred
as Paul's Girlfriend
Alexander Cain
as Danny Thomason
Joy De La Paz
as Motel Receptionist
Lennon Wynn Kuzniar
as Lemonade Girl at Gym
Payton Godfrey
as Lemonade Girl at Fair
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News & Interviews for Promised Land

Critic Reviews for Promised Land

All Critics (152) | Top Critics (41)

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

    Apr 19, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Van Sant is no Frank Capra, so why is he trying so hard to be?

    Apr 18, 2013 | Rating: 1/5
  • Gus Van Sant's fracking drama pits Matt Damon's energy executive against John Krasinski's eco-dreamboat in a battle for the minds of backwater farmers and the heart of Rosemarie DeWitt's moony schoolma'am.

    Feb 8, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Andrew Pulver

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

    Jan 4, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • [It's mostly] a well-wrought drama that feels genuine as it goes about spinning a tale worthy of our challenging times.

    Jan 4, 2013 | Rating: 3/4
  • Promised Land is more effective as an anti-fracking screed than as a drama.

    Jan 4, 2013 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Promised Land


For the most part, this is an engaging and thought-provoking drama with excellent dialogue and complex characters facing complex ethical issues, but it is terribly frustrating to see it all reach an unjustifiable revelation and an unconvincing - yet thematically consistent - conclusion.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

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.

Chris Weber
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....

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

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

Julie B
Julie B

Super Reviewer

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