Matt Damon has a new writing partner in John Krasinski for Promised Land, but still it’s easy to tell that the voice he used crafting Good Will Hunting with Ben Affleck has only intensified in the years since. Damon and Krasinski have penned a tale that could not be timelier, as we see in the Promised Land trailer.
As President Obama mentioned on the campaign trail, when it comes to American energy independence, scientists have reported that there is enough natural gas below the ground in this country to power us for over a century. In Promised Land, Damon is Steve Butler, a big time natural gas company employee whose job is to persuade locals (mostly in rural areas) to lease their land for fracking.
Fracking is the process of excreting the natural gas from the soil. It involves tearing up the land to get the drill where it needs to go, hundreds of feet below the surface. Damon’s character comes armed with money and promises of profit percentages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is an enormous debate in this country currently between the companies who want to drill for the gas and environmental groups who say fracking lays the land barren for any future use and worse, makes it toxic.
Butler, along with his partner Sue Thompson (the always amazing Frances McDormand), believes that this particular small town that serves as our story’s locale is theirs for the taking. That is until Krasinski shows up. His Dustin Noble is aptly named as he seeks to educate the community as to the risks of leasing land to this corporation.
The town opposition arrives in the form of Hal Holbrook’s Frank Yates. It’s nice to see after decades the legendary actor still gives performances as biting as he does in Promised Land. He’s a science teacher who knows all too well about the process of getting natural gas and the harm it can produce. And Rosemarie DeWitt charms as a local school teacher who has a personal interest in both Damon and Krasinski.
Director Gus Van Sant knows how to effectively shoot Damon’s words, as the star told us in our Matt Damon interview. He was the helmer on Good Will Hunting and the have done it again on Promised Land. These people and their issues are painstakingly real while still solidly entertaining.
Van Sant spotlights the difficult decisions these citizens are facing, mirroring what is going on right now across our land. The economy has hit them hard and the promise of easy money is too alluring to resist. Yet, knowing that their land may be forever ruined has many asking questions and in the hands of Van Sant, it is a right versus wrong story where which side is what is still being determined by science and commerce.
The motion picture is a solid first effort on behalf of team Damon and Krasinski. Like Damon did with Affleck before -- as evidenced by brilliant Good Will Hunting quotes -- he and his co-screenwriter paint a picture that is about as pure as it comes.
That is saying something for a movie that centers on an issue that is so enormously grey at the moment.