“Promised Land” is the movie that Matt Damon and John Krasinski of “The Office” teamed up to write. Damon was even going to direct at one time before scheduling conflicts encouraged them to bring on Gus Van Sant.
Damon is Steven, vice-president of a natural gas company who travels with his partner (Frances McDormand) to the rural town of McKinley in order to buy up people’s land and drill for gas. He promises money and a better future for all but the school science teacher, Frank Yates (Hal Holbrooke), knows of the risks of fracking and the arrival of Dustin (Krasinski), an environmentalist with evidence of fracking’s poor effects only make it harder to convince people to sign their land over.
“Promised Land” is involved with the complex and divisive issue of fracking and Damon’s Steve, an essentially good guy who doesn’t want to see another small town die from lack of industry just as his boyhood home did, and Krasinski’s Dustin, a man whose tactics are so based on spreading fear that you know there is more to him than meets the eye, keep it relatively interesting to watch. Van Sant’s slow pacing allows them to take center stage.
But I wanted more. The views of the townspeople are few and far between and Damon’s romance with a school teacher, played by Rosemarie DeWitt, fizzles mostly because no one in this film seems to have much of a personal side. This all leads up to a clever twist ending that unfortunately answers few questions.