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Promised Land (2012)

R  |   |  Drama  |  4 January 2013 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 28,008 users   Metascore: 55/100
Reviews: 99 user | 236 critic | 36 from Metacritic.com

A salesman for a natural gas company experiences life-changing events after arriving in a small town, where his corporation wants to tap into the available resources.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
David Churchill
Carla Bianco ...
Michael Downey
Frank Yates
Drew's Girl
Drew Scott
Claire Allen
Garrett Ashbaugh ...
Basketball Player
Jericho Morgan ...
Jericho (as Jerico Morgan)


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. Written by Focus Features

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

| |  »


Release Date:

4 January 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Terra Prometida  »

Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$173,915 (USA) (28 December 2012)


$7,556,708 (USA) (18 January 2013)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Draws significant parallels to the biblical story of Moses in Exodus. The title within itself if a clearly indication; further, a man (Damon) seeks to introduce new ideas and is a "lawmaker" who introduces fracking to a small community, trying to persuade its members to succumb. See more »


The film was released in January 2013, but in February of 2012 Pennsylvania signed into law "Act 13" which prohibits counties, towns, municipalities, etc. from passing any laws which hinder fracking. See more »


Sue Thomason: I no longer sing in public.
Rob: What? I mean, what's the point of having good hair if you don't sing in public.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Through most of the end credits, the camera zooms out to a wide shot of the town where the film takes place. See more »


Featured in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Episode #21.54 (2012) See more »


Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
Written by Rodney Crowell
Performed by Emmylou Harris with Dolly Parton & Linda Ronstadt
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc.
By arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
See more »

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User Reviews

A Nutshell Review: Promised Land
23 March 2013 | by (Singapore) – See all my reviews

Director Gus Van Sant reunites with actor Matt Damon once again after their award winning film Good Will Hunting, but this time with actor John Krasinski filling in for Ben Affleck as part of the writing-acting equation in a film that combines a big bad natural gas mining corporation, sales pitches by its sales people and elements of environmental protection all rolled into one. The result is an engaging and reflective look at people who have to lie outright in order to do their jobs, or to rely on half truths repeated enough times to be convincingly real, and that prick of conscience should that day arise.

Damon plays the lead role of Steve Butler, whose stellar track record of closing more land deals at rock bottom prices puts him in pole position for that cushy headquarters promotion, in a company that deals with natural gas mining, moving like a Juggernaut and buying up plenty of agricultural farm land that are sitting on valuable shoal. And the game plan used by Steve is deceptively simple – to position himself as one of the town's own, having grown up on a farm, and transforming himself from corporate bigwig wannabe, to the trusted neighbour down the street. All he has to do is to close another deal to move into the corporate boardroom, which would be a piece of cake, except for a school science teacher to derail his seemingly smooth plan, and getting the townsfolk to decide based on a majority vote.

Written by Damon-Krasinski, the story is a fairly interesting one that takes on both a macro look at the problem at hand, where clean energy sources may not be as clean as it's made out to be, especially in the exploiting process, while on the micro level, has plenty of carefully crafted characters to carry the narrative through. For those of us who do not understand the environmental impact of wasteful clean energy production, this film has enough time dedicated so that you'll gather the gist of it, then use new information against what Steve has to present, in the name of very real corporate offers that's one time only, with pressure tactics employed once the feel good option of thinking about one's children and their education get exhausted.

On a micro level, we learn more about, and almost sympathize with Steve, who truly believes in the good that his company is doing in offering a bail out for farmers whose livelihood comes under threat of inevitable change brought about by big money, and genuine concern about those who rescind such offers only to be seen blown away by the winds of change when it comes. If one is skeptical about Damon's dramatic ability then this film may make you change your mind given his nuanced performance. Help of course comes in the form of veteran Frances McDormand, who plays his colleague and partner in crime to fast track their offer, and stands for that check in progress whenever Steve uncharacteristically falters in his usual smooth talking ways. Rounding up the main leads come writer Krasinski himself, as a small time environmentalist out to tell people about the truth to reject big money, because it is unsafe, using personal anecdotes to push his point through. It's small time activist versus big time corporation with legal and marketing teams, so it's anyone's guess how this would pan out.

And the outcome is nothing short of brilliance from the story, especially in its build up in presenting the case from both sides, with space for some romance thrown in for good measure as both camps slug it out for mind-share and heart-share using compelling arguments and guerrilla strategies, up until the final act where the true theme reveals itself – about lies and their impact. There are those in the world who can lie straight into your face without batting an eyelid, or write a report with malicious intent just because they can and are in a questionable state of mind thinking that their lies won't be seen through with a thorough enough research. It hits the mark squarely on the head as well on sales folks and their pitches, that once the deal is done you're never about to see them ever again, since they've already moved on, and the fine print in contracts would be what's governing your life henceforth.

There are those who base their arguments on compelling merits of their own, and there are those who base it on lies created to belittle others in an effort to paint a negative picture, hoping that the people you want to convince buys into your tirade against something. This film does all it can in having these points hammered by the narrative, until a scene that had struck me, involving the honesty of simple folk, who wants nothing but to carry on their simple, honest existence without the introduction of big money and its corrupting influence come put everything into a bind.

Gus Van Sant has made a film with Matt Damon, with Damon giving up what would be his directorial effort, that's a cold hard look at the power corporations wield over the little guy, about the truth in controlling stakes and outcomes, and sets you thinking about this gulf of equality that never was to begin with. A thought provoking, highly recommended film!

28 of 39 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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