MOVIE REVIEW: Promised Land

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Promised Land is the new film from director Gus Van Sant and was written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski.  The last time Van Sant and Damon worked together was on the award winning Good Will Hunting.  Aside from writing duties, Damon and Krasinski also star in the film along with some other top notch talent such as Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt and Hal Holbrook.

The film follows corporate salesperson Steve Butler (Damon) and his partner Sue Thomason (McDormand) as they travel to a small rural farming town in an effort to purchase drilling rights to be used for extracting natural gas.  The town has been hit hard by the economic decline and this should be an easy sell for a community so badly in need of relief.  Steve is from a small town himself, so he knows first hand the benefits this can bring to a community.  Things are made complicated when the proposal is met with objection from a local schoolteacher (Holbrook) that is concerned about the controversial process used for extracting the natural gas.  Moving forward, things get even more muddled once a grassroots environmental activist (Krasinski) comes to town with an agenda of his own.  Steve is now faced with some professional and personal decisions on what he believes to be the truth.

The process for extracting the natural gas is better known as “fracking” and has been a prevalent and somewhat controversial topic in the news in recent years.  The relevance of this makes for a nice backdrop to our story, but this is not just another attempt to push an environmental agenda.  This is a very well written and entertaining story that stands on its own.

Good Will Hunting is one of my all time favorite movies, so I think its fair to say I had pretty high expectations going into this one.  Matt Damon is excellent as always, but it’s John Krasinski that steals the show here.  Often times, I find it more difficult to separate an actor from his/her television persona when they are on such a popular show.  John Krasinski is best known as Jim from The Office, but he really dives into this role and makes it his own.  Aside from those two, the rest of the cast is spot on.  This is a well-rounded movie with some laughs, a little romance, and pointed subject matter, but it does get a bit slow at times.  Although, it doesn’t quite live up to Good Will Hunting, I’d say this is still worth checking out.

Promised Land opens on Friday, January 4.

Grade: B

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