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With: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Scoot McNairy, Titus Welliver, Terry Kinney, Hal Holbrook
Written by: John Krasinski, Matt Damon, based on a story by Dave Eggers
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 106
Date: 12/28/2012

Promised Land (2012)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

In Farm's Way

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A unique group of talents came together for this issue movie. Acclaimed author Dave Eggers wrote the original story, and actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski wrote the screenplay. Gus Van Sant directed, fifteen years after directing another Damon screenplay, Good Will Hunting. The result is pleasantly low-key and never seems preachy or angry. 

Two representatives from a big natural gas corporation, Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), arrive in a small farming community offering to buy the rights to extract natural gas from the earth. The farmers, savaged by the poor economy, are torn between taking the cash and risking the damage that the drilling (known as "fracking") could do. Matters are complicated when a grass-roots activist, Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) shows up to oppose them. At the same time, Steve finds himself developing feelings for a local schoolteacher (Rosemarie DeWitt). Will Steve figure out the right thing to do?

Despite good intentions, Promised Land raises more issues than it can reasonably tackle. Specifically, it brings up the complex question of what farmers are supposed to do in such a terrible economy, and should they risk damaging the environment in exchange for financial security? Yet it turns its focus to the personal journey of the Steve Butler character, and resolves that, leaving the farmers on their own. Van Sant gives this one a more cursory touch than usual, recalling Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester, rather than more challenging films like Gerry or Elephant. But the well-rounded characters -- especially Frances McDormand's -- make it enjoyable along the way.
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