Promised Land is a well-acted and well-meaning movie that unfortunately lacks the one key ingredient that every good drama desperately needs… drama. It’s almost too balanced for its own good, raising issues that could easily provoke and placate supporters and opponents of ‘fracking’, the controversial process of using water, sand and chemicals to fracture underground rock formations to obtain gas, oil, etc. That may be the intent of co-writers and co-stars Matt Damon and John Krasinsky. But the result is a movie that plods along at a mellow pace, without any major spikes of heart, romance, humor, horror, or grit.

Damon plays Steve Butler, a top salesman for a natural gas company. He travels around the country to secure drilling rights from property owners in struggling rural communities. It’s usually a piece of cake. But Steve and his sales partner Sue (Frances McDormand) come across unexpected challenges in the small town of McKinley, Pennsylvania in the form of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) who’s done his research on fracking, and a slick environmental activist (Krasinski) who always seems to be one-step ahead of the game. And it is, in essence, a game – to win over the hearts and minds of the townsfolk. There is one major plot twist that helps drive the film to its somewhat inconclusive, yet thought-provoking conclusion. But I won’t spill.

Promised Land is rated ‘R’, but it’s a very soft ‘R’. I’d almost be inclined to show it to students in geology class. Or ethics class. Or business class. It’s sort of Erin Brockovich meets An Inconvenient Truth. Like I said, it means well. I commend Damon and Kasinsky for using their star power to generate debate and dialogue on an important issue. But I’m not sure enough people will give a frack to help this flick crack the box office – especially during this crowded awards season.

One thought on “Promised Land”
  1. I liked this movie. But it’s definitely not going to make a big impact at this time of year. John Krasinsky and Matt Damon were both good, but Frances McDormand is excellent — isn’t she always? I’ll agree with Mainstream Chick in her assessment that it lacked drama. Fracking is an incredibly controversial and divisive issue — but I didn’t think that came across as strongly as could have. And the ending was total Hollywood cliche. But sometimes I like a good Hollywood cliche. It’s a good movie about an important environment issue. But it can certainly wait for DVD or VOD.

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