‘Promised Land’ Movie Review – Not a Fair Shake
Drama films are usually about a topic and/or ensemble of characters. Promised Land is a good example of how a strong story can get you invested in the lives of everyone involved. However, it’s also a good example of how ulterior motives can destroy a picture. While Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk) uses relevant themes to achieve initial investment in the story, his political statements ring through a lot stronger than they probably should.
Two big-wig corporate salesman, Steve (Matt Damon) and Sue (Frances McDormand), ascend on a rural town in hopes to reach agreements to start natural gas drilling, or hydraulic fracturing (otherwise known as “fracking”). Money is their main incentive because the lucrative offers are exactly the reprieve the cash-stricken residents need.
One thing that got me interested was “hometown feel” of the setting, it felt vaguely familiar to my hometown.
With the benefits come the consequences because an outside environmental presence scours the town hoping to increase awareness about the potential downfalls of “fracking.” Using rhetoric, the environmental agent (John Krasinksi) puts up a fight mostly targeted at Steve.
One of the pivotal parts of the movie, which I’ll obviously not spoil, includes a pretty significant twist that blindsided me. The lengths big companies go to, ones that can be compared to B.P., to insure their own monetary gain is scary.
Thematically, Promised Land seems relevant because of the increased need for sustainability in the United States. While I’d argue we are becoming a “greener” society, there’s still no denying we’ve still got plenty of room to improve.
Taking a step back, the story could (and probably will) be read as an attack on big business and capitalism in general. And while it’s unnerving to see some of these things, it can also be considered manipulative, especially when you think about the story being primarily fiction. This is one of the bigger letdowns because the story is so one-sided. When you look at the overall “message,” it becomes obvious it’s much more about “fracking” than the people.
What initially got me interested in the film practically disappears by the end.
Another one of the bigger disappointments was Van Sant’s involvement in the project. It was initially supposed to be Damon’s directorial debut, but Van Sant took over. The film doesn’t exactly scream “Van Sant!” like some of his others. In fact, it looked a lot like a cheap informative narrative…again with the focus on the politics and not the people.
Promised Land is far from flaming political propaganda. However, it’s also far from being free of a particular agenda. I’m personally very interested in rhetoric, but I believe both sides deserve a fair shot. This movie doesn’t give both sides a fair shake, and despite Matt Damon and John Krasinski’s thoughtful script (and subsequent performances), a pretty good twist, and initially-developed characters, the movie crams its politics down our throats. This much I can’t appreciate.
Promised Land opens in limited release this weekend, but it’ll expand more in early January.
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