Extra Cinema: Promised Land (15)

Sue (McDormand) and Steve (Damon) survey the Promised Land.
Sue (McDormand) and Steve (Damon) survey the Promised Land.

Director: Gus Van Sant

Starring: Matt Damon, Hal Holbrook, Frances McDormand and John Krasinski.

Running time: 1hr 46mins

THIS is a familiar story in the USA, these days, and one which bases itself on a controversial drilling procedure — fracking.

America is getting quite desperate in its search for alternative sources of power, as the planet’s natural resources dwindle.

What it has taken nature millions of years to create, mankind has virtually used up in a little over 200 years.

But there is one resource we have only just begun to exploit — natural gas.

Seemingly, if you dig deep enough, there’s loads of the stuff way underground contained in shale deposits.

Now, I’ve no doubt that Promised Land takes its title from the bible, but I can’t get the Elvis Presley song of the same title out of my head.

Two representatives from a “$9 billion” company called Global arrive in a small, US town with a tantalising proposition for the inhabitants, sell them your land for fracking and they will give them tons of cash.

Seems simple enough, and a real gift for towns which are suffering from the downturn in the economy.

But it’s never that easy, is it?

At a meeting in the school gym some of the town’s people gather to hear the proposal from Global man, Steve (Damon).

Steve thinks it will be like shooting fish in a barrel as the town is in great need of investment.

However, after a positive speech by the corrupt mayor, one of the town’s teachers, Frank Yates (Holbrook), pipes up about the safety aspect of the drilling process.

Suddenly, Steve sees he has opposition to deal with and this is not going to go as smoothly as he had first hoped.

The town agrees to hold a vote at some point in the future when they can gather enough of the townsfolk.

In the meantime, Steve and his trusted sidekick, Sue (McDormand), get busy by signing up rights to drill on individual farms.

However, there is a fly in the honeypot as a charismatic environmentalist, Dustin Noble (Krasinski), just about manages to win over the majority of the town by scaring the good folk with tales of doom if they embrace this dangerous move.

What sets this film slightly apart from the usual “big corporations bad/people good” style of movie is that the supposed bad folk — Steve and Sue — are as much the victims of this corporate mugging as are the people of the town. Steve really believes he’s doing good for the town by bringing this opportunity.

Interesting to note that the film was written by two of its stars: Krasinksi and Damon.

Rating: 4/5