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Not Just Too Close, Dead On.
akprice448 January 2013
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.
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Much better then I expected. Really makes you feel and understand both sides of the argument. I highly recommend. I say A.
cosmo_tiger21 April 2013
"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.
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Dry Land
p-stepien7 September 2013
Matt Damon, once again functioning in the dual role of scriptwriter and main actor, reengages with director Gus van Sant (previous joint ventures include "Gerry" and the Oscar-winning "Good Will Hunting") in search of another fruitful cooperative endeavour . Based on a concept written by Dave Eggers and co-scripted by co-star John Krasinski, "Promised Land" is an extremely competent piece of story-telling, however laboured by a somewhat unconvincing fictionalisation of the matter at hand.

A touchy environmental issue has been presented in one of Gus van Sant's most down-to-earth and standard features to date, where the devilish fracking industry is the focus of a well-meant, if mishitting, effort. Steve Butler (Matt Damon) works as a consultant for the gas industry, roaming the countryside purchasing up land destined for exploitation by deep drilling. Together with the rigid Sue Thompson (Frances McDormand) they form an effective team, effortlessly buying up land in the idyllic small towns, strained by lack of cash, thus falling into financial despair. The gas shelves offer an option for easy cash - leasing the land and energy resources hidden deep in its bowels, thus bringing promise for better days. When Butler and Thompson are sent by their employer Global Crosspower Solutions to a cash-starved Pennsylvania farming community, the land seems ripe for the picking. Nonetheless the dark side of the industry slowly filters through, when the ecological soundness of the natural gas fracking process is brought into question by Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), a physics professor emeritus teaching at a local school. Troubles slowly start arising, coupled by the arrival of environmentalist Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), who initiates a grassroots campaign against fracking. The two soon start to compete for victory, not only amongst the community, but also with regards to the heart of small-town beauty Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt).

Given the continuing discussion regarding the business, who on the outside wants to appear clean, whilst simultaneously sweeping all burning faucets, poisoned wells and dead livestock under the social radar, "Promised Land" could have been an important voice in the discussion, at least forcibly bringing the issue into the public eye. However the restraint shown in presenting the controversies behind fracking seem to be a missed opportunity, as the movie slowly drifts away from the core issue towards an order of melodrama and bickering between two sides of the debate. Not much however is done to present the controversy itself: Is fracking really a threat? Or are we just supposed to decide by ourselves through google after watching the movie? Naturally "Promised Land" isn't a documentary, hence the factual layer is nowhere as dedicated and impacting as in the groundbreaking "Gas Land". Nonetheless the lack of contextualisation is evident, offering too much space for any side to decide for themselves. Much focus is offered towards the question of whether the impoverished farm-owners should just take the money and renege their environmental fears. When someone's livelihood is at stake is it moral and right to ignore ecology? Somewhere amongst this nuanced approach to the issue, the question lingers: is there any reason to really fret regarding fracking or is this whole discussion just pointless? A well researched scene featuring Hal Halbrook would have done the movie a world of good...

Thankfully the script by Damon and Kosinski refrains from painting a cosy picture of right or wrong, presenting the local town life as a simple debate amongst immediate gratification and the perspectives of losses in the future. However the somewhat idyllic presentation of small town life causes the poignancy level of the question to drop, a far cry from the doom and gloom on offer in "Gas Land", the desperation lingering in people's eyes. Damon himself is well cast as a small-town boy fully dedicated to the company and the riches it offers, as a positive alternative. A far cry from a dastardly cooperative mug, his much more level-headed character is a welcome change, which avoids demonizing the people behind the problems. This occasionally helps to strengthen the rivalry for people's hearts, showing that the issue isn't an easy issue to resolve as either side would want to portray. Nonetheless this ambiguity also works against the movie, offering many points of view, but failing to truly show an in-depth focus on any, instead swaggering away into standard dramatic contrivances and a somewhat unwelcome twist at the end, which unravels much of the prior arguments, instead leaving focus on issues, which shouldn't really be the point of the movie. To some extent the characters and their tribulations override the integral story, somewhat collapsing the concept.
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Accurate portrayal of predatory practices used by industry
sharson-854-62860529 December 2012
Warning: 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 creepiness–picture 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.
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Surprisingly Good Movie
Mikeballa8513 March 2013
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!
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Gives a voice to work angst and captures beauty of country life with true colors.
jjunebrown29 December 2012
Warning: 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.
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Much more than an environment film!
amit_imt200225 March 2013
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 financial world.

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
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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!
Hellmant18 January 2013
'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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Promises and delivers.
Quietb-128 December 2012
Warning: 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.
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A Nutshell Review: Promised Land
DICK STEEL23 March 2013
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!
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mostly good, with an unrealistic ending
lee_eisenberg3 December 2013
Gus Van Sant has tackled a number of political and social issues in his movies. "Promised Land" looks at the issue of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. Matt Damon plays an executive from an energy company trying to convince a town to allow the process in their vicinity. Meanwhile, an environmentalist tries to convince people otherwise.

I have liked most of Van Sant's movies, and it's good that this movie is addressing a process that has devastated entire regions. Indeed, the fracking industry criticized the movie's depiction of the process as destructive (surprise, surprise). Unfortunately, what happens at the end does not seem realistic. It reminded me of what happens in Bill Forsyth's "Local Hero". Other than that the movie is a perceptive character study of Damon's amoral exec, the sort of man who's totally in it for the money. Mostly a good movie, understanding that what happens at the end probably wouldn't happen in real life.
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Clever Film with Humor too!
lefontan4 January 2013
Warning: 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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Excellent Film Will Enjoy Repeat Viewings - Much to Ponder
ellisonhorne30 December 2012
It's an amazing work of excellent production values from cinematography, script(Academy Award worthy), music and especially the acting (Frances McDormand, Academy Award worthy). It's a new genre of storytelling that some may find hard to define. I believe this film is ahead of its time and will enjoy multiple viewings. This is a slow-paced story that requires a personal investment while it gives its audience time to consider a host of situations only to be surprised when it defies conventional outcomes. This is an important and entertaining film to experience. It's most certainly worth putting high on your movie-going list.

This slow-burn of a contemporary story appears simple upon viewing, yet is very rewarding when considering the breadth of complexities it features which define today's popular culture. ~ e
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The town is against drilling in Promised Land
rgblakey2 May 2013
Years ago when the world was introduced the Ben Affleck and Matt Damon team they took the industry by storm with their Oscar winning film Good Will Hunting. While they are both A-list actors in their own right, their biggest success was the writing of that film. Now Damon is back in the writing seat, but has brought along The Office star John Krasinski with him. These two guys have gotten together to both write and star in the new film Promised Land that was originally meant to be Matt Damon's directing debut but due to time handed the reigns over to Gus Van Sant. With these guys at the helm and a supporting cast including Frances McDormand and Hal Holbrook is there any chance this movie won't work?

Promised Land follows a pair of corporate sales people who travel to a rural town who have been hit hard by the economic decline in hopes to acquire the property rights for drilling on their land. What seems like an easy job becomes complicated with a schoolteacher and an environmentalist lead a campaign that counters them both professionally and personally. When this movie first starts it moves a bit slow and shows signs of never really taking off. It's not until they take their first meeting that things get up and running making delivering a well written and engaging film. While it doesn't break any molds, it is a well written and acted film. The story is one that will affect everyone in a different way. It never really takes the route of pulling at the heart strings, but does deal with an important issue in today's world but lets it take both sides rather than just preaching one argument. Damon and Krasinski both deliver their always great performances and have great chemistry bouncing off of each other that really shows they work well together. The rest of the cast do a great job and it's always great to see Hal Holbrook who delivers a great performance as usual. They made the choice to shoot this film on location in the country where these issues are occurring all the time and it really gave the film a more realistic film. While the issues involved in the film are serious, the visuals are beautiful to look at and add a downhome feel that this story needs to suck you in.

Damon and Krasinski have crafted a good movie that is relevant and works. There is nothing here that makes it stand out as something amazing, but it is worth checking out. If you are a fan of any of those involved in this movie then you will surely want to check it out.
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Damon Walks Krasinski Into The Promised Land
LoveYourMovies3 January 2013
There have been plenty of actors to make the great leap from the small screen to big screen and with plenty of success, but it is my feeling that John Krasinski will be one of the few that becomes a powerhouse player in Hollywood. His latest effort, which he co-wrote with co-star Matt Damon and teamed up with Damon's friend and director of Damon's breakout film, Good Will Hunting, Gus Van Sant. Promised Land is one movie that you will be able to go back and pinpoint as turning point in Krasiniski's career and where Damon has gone from the player to the teacher.

This is the story of a big energy corporation looking to take the natural gas resources of a small farming town. The corporation's representatives played perfectly by Damon and Frances McDormand are sent in to find land to lease for areas for fracking a dangerous and controversial means of extracting the natural gas from miles under the ground. Soon a local school teacher and retired "genius" begins raising questions and has the town very much concerned and it raises to another level when a small environmental group comes to town with it's representative played by Krasinski. When he clearly has the town on his side Damon's small town roots and conscience begin eating away at him. Then the bottom falls out and only one is left standing.

Having made his mark on the sit-com, The Office, Kransinski has clearly proved he is more than just a smart funny character on a popular sit-com, he's now a true actor. His performance which begins very much playing into his comedy roots takes a quick and dramatic turn. There is no one better to walk Krasinski out of the office and into the Promised Land than Matt Damon. This being only second major screenplay, it is not unlikely that he could follow his co-stars footsteps and take home the golden statue on Oscar night (this would also give Damon his second writing Oscar).

With a nearly perfectly cast of supporting players from the perfectly placed Hal Holbrook to the always lovely Rosemarie DeWitt, Promised Land is a film that will have you feeling every emotion poured on the screen. With plenty of comedic moments to have you taken in early on, to the real emotions that can easily be identified with of the local towns folk.

The performance of the film that had my attention from the moment he appeared on screen was the legendary Hal Holbrook. His role as a man who loves his town and farm despite having had the opportunities escape, is one that you almost can't take your eyes off of. Holbrook has one Oscar nomination to his credit and it wasn't very long ago for the wonderful Into The Wild when he was a spry 83 years old. Now a perfectly aged 87 he might not only be looking at another well deserved nomination but he just may walk on that stage and take that coveted award in his hand and no doubt to an arousing applaud.
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tug of war
roedyg8 July 2014
The movie is filmed in heartbreakingly beautiful rural Pennsylvania. A charming salesman Steve Butler/Matt Damon tries to convince the people sign over the natural gas fracking rights to their properties. It is like a tug of war, where each side in the conflict gains a temporary small advantage. Each side gets to pitch their side with conviction. There almost no hard information about fracking, but there is lots of emotion for both sides. It is "fuck you" greed vs nostalgia for an inevitably dying rural lifestyle. The movie never takes the environmental case seriously, but it turns out there is a reason you can forgive them that. The case for preservation is made mostly visually where the camera does time lapse or panning shots over the amazing landscapes. The rest is sentimental hokum.

You watch Steve gradually become more and more disillusioned with what he has been doing. The movie builds to the climax when Steve tells all to a big audience.

The main thing that did not work for me is the immaculate giant white homes with manicured lawns even single people live in, yet they are all supposed be on the edge of bankruptcy. The other is the witty small town bar banter. In reality, it would be much much more dumbed down.
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Reminiscent of "Local Hero", but good on its own merits
vincentlynch-moonoi2 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I have a great deal of respect for Matt Damon. He seems to be a man of principle (not that I always agree with them) who is willing to put his money where his mouth is (this film was a big money-loser). And yet, I think I've only plunked down my 8 bucks three different times to go to the theater and see a Matt Damon flick. Mostly I wait and watch them on cable. But, two thumbs up to Matt for being the man he is.

And, he is a fine actor. And it shows in this film. John Krasinski is also an actor that I am coming to admire more and more...although for his acting ability; this is far from his finest role. Frances McDormand is one of those more subtle actors...subtle in her performances, and subtle in her career...but usually giving a performance that's it is here. I was not familiar with Rosemarie DeWitt, a sort of love interest here, but she was very believable. And of course, one of America's actor-treasures is here -- Hal Holbrook.

In terms of the story, it's quite good, although in some ways it reminds me an awfully lot of "Local Hero" starring Burt Lancaster. Depending on your political viewpoint, this film will either please you or enrage you. The issue is fracking, and Damon's position is fairly well known. So this film definitely takes a position. Which is fine with me. But make no mistake, it's biased, and that's probably the reason it was a money-loser at the box office. It is a believable story, and although the crisis of conscience that hits Damon is predictable, there's one plot twist near the end that will surprise you; it's a gem!

I recommend this film. And even if you are pro-fracking, I still recommend you watch this film and see the other side of the issue.

P.S. -- Matt, if you keep making political films, you may begin to lose your audience. So be careful. Don't pull a Clint Eastwood on us!
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I enjoyed it for the most part. It's a nice movie
callanvass28 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
(Credit IMDb) 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.

I paid no attention to this film during its theatrical release, or recently on DVD. The storyline didn't appeal to me all that much, despite an excellent cast. I thought what the hell. I'll give it a shot. I wouldn't say it was a surprise that I enjoyed the movie as much as I did, but I didn't expect it to warm my heart. It's quite preachy, but done very effectively. It's a morality tale, but it's not shoved down your throat. It gets its message across, and doesn't try to overdo it, thankfully. It also helps that our lead Steve (Matt Damon) is a likable fellow, just trying to do his job. I credit Gus Van Saint for some picturesque scenery. There is a big twist in the finale, which I didn't see coming. I'm usually pretty adept when it comes to predicting a twist, but I didn't see this coming at all. It does work, but I thought things ended too safely. They delivered the big twist, and seemed to get cold feet or something. It was a very average way to cap things off. Matt Damon is very good as Steve. Even though he works for a big shot company, he felt like an everyday man, just trying to get his job done. He conveys his emotions extremely well, and I liked him a lot. His romance with Rosemarie DeWitt was rather subdued. I can easily see why they didn't put all that much emphasis on it, though. Frances McDormand (Sue) is a hoot as Damon's partner. There chemistry shined, and I enjoyed watching them work. John Krasinski gives somewhat of a smug, but good performance. His character plays a very pivotal part in the finale. I kindly ask that he never sings Dancing in The Dark by Bruce Springsteen, ever again. I'm digressing, but you'll see what I mean when his karaoke scene commences. Hal Holebrook is pure class, and it was great to see him. I personally liked it. It's far from perfect, but it's provocative, and genuine. It also provides a good message that tradition & self-respect are more important than money

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Interesting but understated
neil-47626 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Steve (Matt Damon) and Sue (Frances McDormand) work for an energy company which specialises in fracking (obtaining gas from shale deposits), and arrive in a small rural community with the intention of persuading impoverished farmers to sell drilling rights. They soon find that someone is running a campaign to persuade the locals of environmental hazards.

This interesting little drama from Gus van Sant puts both sides of an argument, takes its story in one or two interesting and somewhat unexpected directions, and doesn't come to any firm conclusions. Damon's conflicted character is the backbone of the film, but John Krasinski's good-natured environmentalist is rather better company.

I came out of this, though, thinking that it was far more in the nature of being a TV movie than a cinema feature, and I am sure that if I see the title in a year's time, I won't remember what film it relates to.
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Pastoral America and the search for natural energy
SimonJack8 November 2014
"Promised Land" is a movie for the present time in America. Natural gas, oil shale, oil and related explorations are becoming more common. The world's consumption of oil continues to leapfrog, as more and more one- time third world countries acquire some affluence. Energy prices continue to work their way up. Sources of natural energy that once were far too expensive to produce, now become economical. At the same times, many small farm communities continue to shrink, and most become poorer with few jobs and businesses to support the dwindling farm populations.

Into this setting, "Promised Land" gives us a story of two employees who move into a rural community to buy up the leases for natural gas exploration and possible production. It's a story about people doing their job in earnest, and about the people of a small town. The town is in rural Pennsylvania, but it could be anywhere in rural America. – as Matt Damon's character, Steve Butler says. And, the people of this community must weigh the promise of prosperity against unknown possible negative effects on their natural surroundings from drilling. There is an interesting twist in this story that comes out at the end.

The cast are all quite good. Besides Damon, Frances McDormand co-stars as his sidekick employee, Sue Thompson. John Krasinski is very smooth and believable as Dustin Noble. Rosemarie DeWitt plays Alice, the fifth- grade school teacher. Titus Welliver is Rob, the local guns and grocery story owner. Hal Holbrook, at 88 years of age, is the retired MIT scientist and volunteer high school teacher, Frank Yates. And, the many town folk who are extras add nicely to this story.

The scenic shots are something right out of Norman Rockwell's pastoral America. Damon and Krasinski wrote the screenplay for this film. They also co-produced it with director Gus Van Sant. The film moves at a steady pace that may be too slow for some people. Those who need the fast and furious frenzy of constant-action movies to get their adrenalin flowing are not likely to enjoy this film. But, for the rest of us, it's a nice story that the whole family can enjoy.
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No propaganda. Give it a chance.
franzrebs25 August 2015
Okay. So I was hesitant about watching this movie because of its relatively low rating. I checked out the trailer - looked good - so I gave it a shot. And it was way above my expectations.

Of course, Gus Van Sant took care of the medium. Visuals looked great as expected. Intimate colors with a bit of grainy texture to add to the atmosphere. Acting was superb. The subject around which the story revolves shed light on a topic I find very interesting, though it may not be the same for the general audience.

Upon checking the rest of the reviews here, it looks like most of the low ratings were affected more by political dissidence rather than the cinematic experience itself. What they have to understand is that the movie is not made to point to a conclusion; it simply tells the story of the land owners, so we can hear the side of the very people who are directly affected by the movements made by these corporate giants. The statement this movie is trying to make is a far cry from the aggressive strategies they have been using on these small towns. If you find something disagreeable then start your own arguments elsewhere. No doubt this movie was well done. They did a great job.
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Lame standard Hollywood cheese with no credibility
Slipped_Sprocket5 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Three of us went to see Promised Land (PL) last night and I hate to say this, but the movie was not only shoddy standard Hollywood fare, it failed completely in being even moderately realistic as well as failing to clarify the issues involved with both fracking industrialization of rural areas and the genuine short and long term impacts involved. I don't know what rock the film's scriptwriters and producers have been hiding under, but the average person in the street knows more about fracking and it's implications than they did. The manner in which the leasing agents were approaching property owners was false, the town's individual and collective reaction was pure fiction and the premise (that there was a mole "double agent" in the employ of a huge gas corporation passing himself off as an environmentalist) is patently ludicrous.

I know landowners in the middle of the rural fracking boom in the northern tier of the state who have been in the midst of the real site of this ongoing crisis since it began 4 years ago and also know people who work in the shale gas industry so I am pretty familiar with how the process works.

First off, unlike the way it is portrayed in PL, the leasing agents are more often independents who collect signed leases and then bundle them and sell them to the highest bidder for a percentage profit.

Second, the idea promoted by PL that the community "votes" on whether to "allow" the mining in their area is completely false -- we ALL know that state commerce rules largely supercede any local regulations, even if the court's stay of the worst features of Act 13 stands.

Third, the portrayal of rural small town life as an idyllic environment inhabited by idealistic traditionalists is largely false. The reason that there has been such a boom in drilling is that a large percentage of individual land owners are enthusiastic, sometimes blindly so, about signing up to get the money from the drillers. And most, even if they have not leased, have friends or family who work either for the drilling industries or for businesses that profit from their presence, like industrial suppliers, truck drivers, laborers and owners and employees of motels, restaurants and service stations. Even if it is a Devil's Bargain, the fracking industry has brought at least a temporary level of prosperity to many struggling small towns. Much of the population of these regions tend to have a suspicion of environmentalism (which they associate with "big city liberals") and of academics and science, so educating them about the real threat to their lifestyles and health by shale gas drilling is a tough row to hoe. The notion that locals would challenge and beat up a gas leasing agent in a bar is beyond dumb.

Fourth, there was virtually NO real depiction or explanation of the process of fracking in the film. The schoolroom "demonstration" scene and the "dead cows in Louisiana" trope were ludicrous. There are REAL environmental issues with frack drilling and REAL accidents affecting human and animal health that could have been worked into the script. There was NO mention of air pollution, the effects of heavy traffic on rural roads, the noise and emissions of compressor stations, the land destruction of pipelines, the massive draw-offs of water and the disposal problems of "produced" waste water. Anyone not already familiar with the frack process and the issues involved would learn nothing from this film. The subplot about the doofus living in the trailer who enthusiastically signs a lease is beyond dumb. For one thing, a fracking well pad takes a MINIMUM of 4 acres and most are closer to 10. No leasing agent would solicit a contract for the guy's 1.3 acre plot. And people who are leasing their property tend to be pretty well informed about the going rates and royalties. Pretty typical Hollywood condescension towards rural folk as dim yokels.

Fifth, though I am no big fan of the oil and gas industry, I do know that they are more greedy than sneaky and the plot device of the "secret agent" is silly and distorts the real issues. Yes, the industry does sponsor duplicitous phony "environmental" propaganda, but the standard two-dimensional Hollywood portrayal of the "evil corporation" and the "ethical insider with a heart who has an epiphany" are cheap shots and juvenile scripting. I could have drafted a more effective script than this one in about 15 minutes.

Honestly, the fracking industry has little to fear from this dopey film (we got to the 7:15 screening early enough to be subjected to the entire 45 minutes of ads and "coming attractions" and didn't see any of the "industry information" we were told to expect). And I see little in this piece of Hollywood run-of-the-mill cheese that would inform or energize anyone about the genuine issues involved in the fracking dilemma. If anything, the falseness of the premises and the portrayals could be a setback for the movement. There are such major gaffes and gaps in this film that I feel strongly that it would be a mistake for the anti- fracking movement to pin any publicity or hopes on it in strengthening the cause.

The movie is a complete disappointment and a failure, both as a dramatic production and as a potentially influential public wake-up call. Hollywood crap. Matt Damon should be ashamed of this pablum.
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Went in with low expectations, but Gus van Sant delivered!
walentys29 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I went into this film with fairly low expectations because the ratings on most websites range from mediocre to low. After seeing the film I understand why, but wholeheartedly disagree; van Sant delivers us yet another fantastic piece of cinema to add to his impressive career. The primary reason that the critic and even user scores are so skewed is because this phenomenon generally happens with any film dealing with a politically or environmentally "hot" topic. In this case the film's plot revolves around natural gas extraction, and the hot button issue is "fracking".

It seems a bit unfortunate that any time a film's plot happens to revolve around something that causes great emotional or political response, the general consensus as far as critique is to flippantly disregard any and all cinematic or dramatic aspects of the film and almost single-mindedly rate the film on how well it "handled the issue" (whichever side you may be on). I personally tend to take the complete opposite approach and disregard the moral or social impacts, instead focusing primarily on the cinema and drama presented to me. Frankly, if you're looking for a factually sound, eye-opening, moralist type of experience, watch a documentary on fracking. There are plenty. This film is a drama, and it does not pretend to be anything but. In fact that's what I like so much about it. The film takes a very relatable and real pretext, the modern small American struggling farm, and uses this as a catalyst for character building, emotion, and some stunningly beautiful shots, all while maturely painting several different angles and perspectives on the issue. There are certainly issues raised about farmland, corporations, natural gas, fracking, and several others, and these may seem like the forefront here, but characters are always the forefront of any true drama.

The main character was played by Matt Damon, and despite him being the same charming, funny, intelligent, confident guy we've seen in just about all of his films, beneath that front he does a great job of portraying self-doubt and morality throughout. The contrast of his supreme sense of morality and making good decisions with the highly morally questionable task he was sent to do is used very very effectively. He is constantly questioning whether or not he is making the right decision. This self-questioning is not done in a tacky verbal manner, but instead via the language of cinema; his facial expressions and van Sant's capturing of his internal struggle say enough. The acting and directing of this were both superb. You also really feel that Damon's character falls in love with the whole town, and perhaps a woman from there too. The relation he had with this woman, played well by Rosemarie DeWitt, had a subtle affection to it despite us never really seeing it come into fruition. I respect that the cheap route was not taken wherein they fall fervently in love or even make love, but instead the undertones of affection were plain enough to see. This is, once again, great cinematic technique. I also enjoyed that as soon as Damon's character was presented with a tricky situation, he was very quick to choose the right call. The film did not putz around for several scenes where he's flirting with the notion of being the "bad guy"; I feel that many films take this route whether or not it even fits and it simply feels trite by now. His character did not fit that role, and redemption was unnecessary in this film, thus I'm glad it was not present.

John Krasinski's acting really surprised me, as I had never really seen him in a worthy, serious role. But now I have, and this man can act. His role was a downright ruthless antagonist, completely shutting down Damon's character at every corner, even going so far as to take away his love interest. I must also give him, and of course Damon, writing credit, as most of the dialog throughout the film was terrific.

Frances McDormand played a supporting role, in a literal sense; she was there to support Damon's character, as both a mother-like figure and coworker. The comedic relief from her worked well, e.g. when Damon's character picks up the phone and answers it with "Alice?" (Alice was the quirky attractive girl he met at the town bar), McDormand's character answers, "No, but I'm in room 23 if you're desperate". Excellent, funny writing.

Naturally, Gus van Sant took advantage of the beauty of country land to deliver us some breathtakingly gorgeous shots. But it was not purely the scenery that delivered. Even in the beginning of the film before arrival into the town, when Damon's character is sitting down at a restaurant talking with a corporate head about the trip, van Sant makes great use of a mirror behind them both. There is true artistry in much of this cinematography, and many of the angles and camera motions bespeak events happening in the story and to the characters. Danny Elfman's soundtrack composition was perfect and fitting once again, and I was very glad to see his name on the opening credits, as it indicated the same director / writer / composer trio that Good Will Hunting had (not to mention star too), so I knew I was in for a treat.

Another great aspect about the film was that it portrayed many different sides of the natural gas issue well. The film took more of a third-person, observational viewpoint, rather than diving in with very much bias (until the end anyway). I respected that it did not feel so much like we took anyone's side, but instead we understood where each and every person was coming from. A great job was done at keeping all levels of understanding and empathy fairly even across the spectrum of belief. Damon's character is just trying to do his job, but so is everyone else, their jobs in this case being to find out what's best for their town. You can understand the emotional weight behind each and every conversation, and many of the monologues were brilliantly written, even convincing. The interesting thing about many of the side characters who weren't the main focus was that these people seem to parallel quite a bit with real-life viewers and critics of the film. Many people in the film did not agree with Damon's character coming into the town, so they didn't give him a chance. In the same fashion, many real people who may not agree with the film's "message" or political aspects (whichever side) will not give it a chance either.

The primary aspect that was lacking about the film was the twist ending; the film left off on an overly cynical note, almost leaving you feeling too empty and dry afterward, and to be honest, almost completely counteracting and invalidating all of the praise regarding its third-person nature. That's not to say the ending was horribly written, as it was admittedly a pretty big surprise and left you a bit awestruck, but it did change the story in a far too jarringly cynical manner for what one would expect at that point, and at great cost. The film's aforementioned good sense of portraying all sides of the issue in a surprisingly level-headed manner is lost here, as the ending pretty clearly chooses a moral side. However, a film is not just an ending, therefore all praise still holds water and this is a great film.
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A Pro-Environment Film About Long-Term Problems
Desertman841 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Promised Land is a pro-environment independent film that features Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, and Hal Holbrook. The screenplay is written by Damon and Krasinski that was based on a story by Dave Eggers about two corporate salespeople who visit a rural town in an attempt to buy drilling rights from the local residents.It was directed by Gus Van Sant.

Steve Butler is a salesman for a natural gas company who's offered a big promotion if he can persuade the residents of a Pennsylvania farming town to sign leases allowing the company to drill for natural gas.It is called a procedure known as fracking. However, when he and his colleague Sue arrive in town, the pair find themselves up against significant local opposition, headed by retired scientist Frank and stirred up further by charming environmentalist Dustin.

This is a thought-provoking and emotionally engaging small town drama with a strong script and a terrific central performance from co-writer Matt Damon.It is sincere and so indisputable, that it theme and message hard to swallow but easy to digest.And most importantly,it is not about easy fixes, be they personal or political,but rather is about how to deal with long-term problems.
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A bland, uninspired film
adoser9323 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This film had a lot of potential. With a screenplay by John Krasinski and Matt Damon, this movie carried a lot of star power and marketed itself as a serious adult drama, but the result is a bland and unoriginal film that wastes the talent of all involved.

The screenplay seems to be the major fault. It is largely uninformative about the issue of fracking, instead getting involved in cheap melodrama as the two sides simply use tricks to further their side instead actually debating any points. The characters are flat and uninspired, and other than seasoned veterans Frances McDormand and Hal Holbrook, no one comes out strong in this film. Matt Damon is especially weak; mostly unbelievable as an Iowa farmboy and sticking to borderline childish emotions in his scenes with Krasinki. The character's rivalry with Krasinski is so overwrought and absurd that it is almost upsetting that the film would make such a focus on it. The film also hits a totally unnecessary 20 minute lull in plot midway through the film, a clear result of its meandering and lack of focus or care put into the crafting of its characters in story.

None of that compares to the plot twist, an insult to the intelligence of any viewer. Any who can manage to rethink the film with the given knowledge the plot twist provides must see a film that has no believability and no depth to it whatsoever. It is hard to know exactly what this film was intended to be: it fails as an informative film about fracking; it fails as a political drama; it fails as a human drama. It holds no interest or entertainment value whatsoever and wastes the amazing talented cast it has managed to assemble. Don't bother with this one.
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