Promised Land [Blu-Ray] Gus Van Sant

Promised Land [Blu-Ray] Gus Van Sant
5
In attempting to balance a smart and serious discussion of the benefits and dangers of hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") for natural gas with an actual human story, Promised Land never quite manages to get out of its own way. The arguments about the nasty business of corporations paying off towns for the use of their land, while impassioned and informed, end up revolving around the same few issues. Furthermore, they're hampered by characters and relationships so hollow that they feel as if they've merely been included to make the movie's real agenda more palatable. Steve (Matt Damon) travels to rural areas on behalf of fictional energy juggernaut Global, selling residents on how allowing "fracking" on their land will ultimately make them millionaires for doing nothing. Landing in a small farming community in Pennsylvania, with partner Sue (Frances McDormand) in tow, they meet some resistance, first from the town's mayor and then from a local high school science teacher (Hal Holbrook) at a town meeting. Soon, they have put the issue up to a vote and Steve and Sue are canvassing door-to-door in an attempt to preserve their sterling reputations with the company. To make their task even harder, a representative from a small environmental company (John Krasinski) shows up to dissuade the people from allowing Global to destroy the land, like they did to his hometown. The film (and Damon) is at its best when Steve is pitching potential holdouts, combating any dissent with empty promises of paydays so big they almost allow him to quell any guilt about the consequences. McDormand manages to elevate an underwritten role with her kooky comic sensibilities, but Krasinski is confined to occupying a two-dimensional, smug cipher that quickly becomes tiresome. Worse still is one of the more unnecessary love triangles in recent memory, guilty of wasting the ample talents of Rosemarie DeWitt. Ultimately an intriguing attempt at addressing a pressing issue that only narrowly misses the mark, this reunion of Damon and Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant (with a script co-written by Damon and Krasinski) remains a little too timid in its execution; it wants to be incisive and thought provoking, but not without coating the bitter pill with a little bit of romance and humour. The extras are few, with a short making-of featurette making it clear how much everyone loves each other and the inclusion of a solitary extended scene. (Universal)