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I would honestly give this film a 9 out of ten. It was directed
beautifully, and I feel the screenplay is great. The dialogue is more
than believable, and both Matt Damon and John Kransinski both do a
wonderful job in conveying their character's qualities and aspirations.
There seldom seemed to be a slow moment(if at all).
As far as how close to reality this movie comes.... I live in northeastern Pennsylvania, only 5 minutes away from Harford, and only 25 minutes away from Dimock(where the documentary Gasland was based). I have seen the effects of hydrofracking, both the negative and what little positive comes of it(but those facts and feelings are for another discussion). As sad as it may seem, natural gas and well drilling companies(to go un-named ONLY in this review) bought their way into the community with false hope, money, and lies, but not necessarily as it happened in the film. In reality.... it was even worse. Barbecues, parties, etc. were even thrown in order to gain fans and friends... The community's spirit and resilience was conveyed correctly, though in reality, it gained support too late.
All in all, even if political/social/ecological issues regarding hydrofracking aren't your forte, this film is a quality film that is captivating and deserves to have personal opinions set aside and enjoyed for its quality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When the movie ended, credits rolled but no one moved or said a word.
That doesn't often happen in a fairly crowded movie theater. Processing
was required. Promised Land is a movie that makes people think and
thinking does not mix well with fracking.
Promised Land was much better than I expected. We knew there was a plot twist coming but we were unprepared for the creepinesspicture George Clooney on a hill petting some horses when his car blows up creepy, and that's not creepy enough. As I sat there watching the credits roll, I thought, "Yeah, they would totally do that."
Big money and huge effort has been invested to discredit this movie just like they did with the documentary Gasland. They rolled out a new website called The Real Promised Land and a new Facebook page by the same name.
Now I understand why the huge investment in discrediting Promised Land. Movies that make people think are dangerous.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Promised Land, the new movie from director Gus Van Sant, takes a long
hard look at people's decisions to sell land use rights away to energy
companies for gas drilling. Small landowners and large farm owners each
face a crisis when the gas man comes to town. The Pennsylvania
landowners are not the only people to go through a crisis of conscience
in the movie. The energy company employees also struggle with sorting
out the truth and the lies behind their work. As one employee says,
"it's just a job". Increasingly as the real news comes out day after
day about chemical contamination after hydraulic fracturing fracking
one person's job morphs into another person's tragedy.
I grew up in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in New York, a rural area that is now at a the center of a raging debate over fracking land rights for the Marcellus Shale gas. Fracking was put on hold here in New York, due to concerns over health impact of chemicals used and chemical waste produced. The story in the movie, Promised Land, as written by star actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski, captures parts of country life from my childhood with true colors. Closeness to the earth, respectful of honesty in conversation, I remember this well. The dialog throughout is natural and believable.The movie is beautifully filmed to share the peace of nature.
'PROMISED LAND': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon reunite, after 1997's 'GOOD WILL HUNTING' and 2002's 'GERRY'. All three collaborations were starring and co-written by Damon while Van Sant directed. Damon was going to make this film his directorial debut but stepped down due to scheduling conflicts and asked his buddy Van Sant to direct it instead. I don't know what kind of a job Damon would have done but Van Sant is one of the best directors around and does a breathtaking job here once again. Damon co-wrote 'GOOD WILL HUNTING' with his longtime pal Ben Affleck and the two co-starred in the film together; he did the same kind of teamwork with Ben's brother Casey on 'GERRY'. This time around he co-wrote and co-produced the film with actor John Krasinski (of TV's 'THE OFFICE' fame) and Krasinski also co-stars in the film as well. The movie is a heartfelt drama with a strong environmental message about fracking that has some ultra-conservatives upset. No matter your view on the subject the movie is great filmmaking and a must see.
Damon plays Steve Butler, a salesman who's quickly advancing at the company he works for, Global Crosspower Solutions, which specializes in fracking (a controversial drilling method used to obtain natural gas deep beneath the ground). He and his partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), travel to a Pennsylvania farming town, hit hard by the economy, in order to try and purchase drilling rights from the landowners for their company. The town is very proud of having long survived on passing farm land off from generation to generation. Steve came from a town very similar but life there collapsed when the town's Caterpillar assembly plant closed. Initially Steve and Sue do very well but then a local high school science teacher (Hal Holbrook), who's also a world famous geologist, gets the whole town spooked when he brings up stories of how fracking has severely damaged other towns like theirs who have done business with the same company. The town agrees to put the matter up for a vote in a few weeks time. To make matters worse, for Steve and Sue, an environmental advocate (Krasinski) shows up in town pushing a campaign against Global Crosspower Solutions. Steve fights hard for his company but at the same time begins to strongly question what he's doing, as he also falls for a local teacher he meets at a bar (the beautiful Rosemarie DeWitt).
Fracking was previously brought to filmgoers attention in 2010 with the Oscar nominated documentary 'GASLAND'. That film was informative and very educational but it didn't pack the emotional wallop that this film does. In my opinion this fictional tale is a more effective way of getting it's message across (and it is an important message). Right wing nuts will argue that there's no evidence that fracking is harmful and it's all a liberal conspiracy but you'd have to be a complete idiot to buy that (the facts are undeniable). If you want to argue that the money to these struggling farmers is more important than the damage it does to the land than that's a much more valid argument but people that try to deny logic in this way (just because they don't like it) are more harmful to the world than fracking is. Damon is outstanding in the film, Krasinski is good and I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan of the stunning DeWitt with every film I see her in. Damon and Krasinski's script is also impressive and it actually takes one of the best twists I've ever seen in a film. Van Sant's directing is really what makes the movie beautiful though, that plus a great score by Danny Elfman (and a perfectly fitting soundtrack) are really what make the movie a moving film experience that you really won't want to miss.
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"I'm not selling them natural gas. I'm selling them the only way they have to get back." Steve Butler (Damon) is a salesman working for Global, a natural gas company. Him and his partner travel to a small farming community to buy up property rights in order to drill. When an objection by a local teacher causes an enviormentalist activist to show up things get harder for Steve. This is a movie where the trailer doesn't do it justice. I wanted to see it based off the cast but it looked a little boring. While the movie is a little slow moving it is in no way boring. The writing and acting is very good and the "bad guy" that Damon plays really makes you feel for him and kind of root for him instead of the "good guy". While the movie does get a little political towards the end this is not a typical "enviromental/save the Earth" type movie. This movie makes you able to feel both sides of the argument and almost forces you to pick a side. I expected this to be boring with good acting going in. I got sucked in pretty fast and ended up really liking this much more then I thought I would. Overall, much better then expected and I highly recommend this. I give it an A.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
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.
Matt Damon is excellent. Francis Mc Durmand is restrained and under used.
It's a small film dealing with a big issue. Perhaps half way through you might predict the ending but there's a "didn't see that one coming" twist.
It may not get wide distribution so seek it out. If you don't see it in a theater it will play well on DVD.
I really enjoyed this film. Acting is superb (obviously, look at the
cast), beautifully shot, engaging confident storytelling. Very will
scripted by Krasinski and Damon.
People seem a bit split on this movie, I think that partly has to do with a 'hot button' subject, but I don't think the film overly politicized the issue, in fact it did a good job of not making it to preachy, and showed that it is a very complicated issue.
Also the movie isn't an action film, it's a drama, that is nonetheless thoroughly engaging. Highly recommend. would give it 10/10 but third act issues lowered the score for me just a bit. Still a great watch!
Its easy to see Promised Land just as the trailers promise.Namely as a
film about the environmental hazards of drilling for natural gas using
a process called fracking ( hydraulic fracturing), that is not as
harmless as its made out to be, and placing this neatly in a decaying
small town in the agricultural heartland of America. Promised Land
works at that level too, but more importantly it is the study of its
protagonist Steve Butler, played by Matt Damon.Matt Damon and his co
writers John Krasinski and Dave Eggers, have written a role which is
ostensibly a corporate salesman for big oil but could easily have been
a Wall Street trader coming to terms with the troubling reality of the
Steve Butler is the study of a man seriously out of depth, he is doing a job that he thought he was good at, but suddenly his modus operandi seems childish and outdated.Matt Damon does not reveal his moral core throughout, he continues to wear the amour of his flannel shirts, that he buys to blend in, before he gets to the job of converting the townspeople to sell out their future.Perhaps he has risen to his level of incompetence, a classic example of the Peter Principle.But in the hands of Gus Van Sant its not just about professionalism.He befriends a charming single woman in a bar, in a town like this its a miracle she exists.He turns his charm on her just like he does with his audience. His favorite trick is walking upto the front yard of a house and asking the kid who may be playing there,"Are you the owner of this place?'When the confused kid says, "No", he asks,"Then how come you are doing all the hard work?".That's a slam dunk.
But Steve this time has competition, a man more handsome, more charming and apparently smarter arrives out of nowhere, with a bunch of damning photographs which graphically illustrate the nightmare that the residents are about to wreck on themselves.He not only steals the town but also the girl.How Steve will deal with this double whammy is the neat resolution of the film.The resolution exists because filmmaking is a costly enterprise, but as we learn through the course of this film, reality is far more complicated than that.
He has a partner, Sue, played by Frances McDormand, who is the perfect choice for this role.She is tough and business-like and we see her cringe more than once as Steve turns into a bigger and bigger wreck.She is a travelling hockey mom, her sons baseball game is her only silver lining.She manages to remain sane because of this emotional anchor which Steve does not have.The reality of the environment debate is complicated and it needs a scientist to decode, played here by Hal Holbrook, who is able to do a more comprehensive job of using Google to figure it all out.And yet as he and Steve concur,ultimately its all about our consumption pattern that we are not willing to discuss, let alone change.The sad eyes of Halbrook see no hope, only sparks of revolt, which he provides with his research to the residents.
We start off in Promised Land by looking at Jason Bourne and then forget all about him.Perhaps this is part of what Damon was aiming for, to become an actor again rather than a one man action movie franchise.He succeeds to a very large extent.Francis McDormand is surely an American national treasure and her performance here is reason enough to see this film.The cinematography is deliberately fuzzy but maybe the goal is to make a pretty landscape look ugly and grainy, photographing the lush landscape and its wonderful actors in sharp focus would have made it a pretty picture, detracting from its weary tone.
The oeuvre of Gus Van Sant is full of pieces that study the American landscape from an intimate leftwing lens.From Milk which looked at a gay rights activist to Elephant, which quietly observed the Columbine shootings with a docudrama approach, his films try to decode the American ethos. Along the way he makes brave choices like reshooting Psycho shot by shot, a decision for which he has been much vilified, but his reasons for doing so as a serious director were commendable.Cinema is better off with experiments like those, never mind if they fail, or don't make people happy.
Promised Land remarkably reminds one of Peter Bagdanovich's classic 1971 film The Last Picture Show in its study of the collapse of the American dream.That film perhaps sets the stage for this one, all the young people have gone away to the city and those that remain must make frightening life choices.Its easy to see the poverty struck town as a microcosm of America and the title as a commentary on the shattered "Great American Dream" (surprisingly not trademarked yet).Mr Van Sant delivers a richly textures film that neatly sidesteps the environment question and places individual choices at its centre.
Published on my blog mostlycinema.com
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!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Intelligent. Thought-provoking. Thoroughly enjoyed. Accurate portrayal of big cooperations engaging in an undercover fashion, posing s ignificant risks to the environment and their business partner's health, but on the surface exposing the benefits of money by sponsoring local fairs and baseball team clothing. I admired the fact that it did show both sides of the issue at hand. Yes, the people in a small farming community do need money and the cooperations understand this and see this as their best form of PR because it does help people, but short-term. But, on the other side - destroying the environment, their livelihood, their dignity, their health, the animals are long-term effects that are not accounted for. Anyone who opposes should at least give the film a shot because it does cover both sides.
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