Release Date: January 4, 2013
Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski
Runtime: 106 min
Tagline: What’s your price?
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 a man (Krasinski) who counters Steve both personally and professionally.
This environmental drama reunites Good Will Hunting star Matt Damon and director Gus Van Sant. While it has the same good acting and fine direction, it doesn’t quite have the best characters or writing. Thus proving Ben Affleck’s writing was one heck of a contribution to Good Will Hunting‘s screenplay.
The characters in this feature are simple and generic. Damon’s character of Steve Butler is decent, but his beliefs seem distorted throughout the feature. He goes through a roller coaster of emotions where he tells the people one thing, but he thinks something else. However, that character change is necessary for the screenplay because his soul is supposed to be changed and touched by the people themselves. Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) is a fairly uninteresting character merely established as a mother on a business trip who just really wants to be back with her son. Krasinski’s Dustin Noble is playing the nice guy routine, trying to convince the people of the town that Global will ruin the local economy instead of helping it.
Global is a natural gas company that uses a process called fracking to go underground and retrieve the valuable resources. This film raises awareness of this dangerous process. This is also an analysis of how big companies don’t care for the environment or the people themselves, they only care for making money. But this town has something to say about that. The only other 2012 film that has a louder message of the environment is Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. But really, that is tailored for children, and many aren’t clever enough to realize when an idea is being hammered down their throats. However, this is an adult drama and the majority of adults know when an idea is loud or preachy.
The only things that set this film apart is the rather loud message and the change of heart Steve has. Though, it really doesn’t stop it from being generic and often bland. Some redundant plot points that do not do anything for the story whatsoever are less interesting than a man snoring loudly. It is also a very by-the-book feature that goes through the motions. Sure, it’s a decent watch, but it’s nothing more. The cast is stellar (also including Scoot McNairy, Hal Holbrook and Rosemarie DeWitt) but none of the talented actors are given thoroughly interesting characters.
In a nutshell: Promised Land is a decent, but far from good, experience that isn’t more than that. It’s an environmental drama that tries to explore unique concepts like fracking and greedy large companies, but it needs Ben Affleck on as a writer. The end product comes across as usually bland, predictable and very generic. It goes through the motions of this type of drama until the very end.