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DVD Review: Promised Land

April 23, 2013

Promised Land Blu-ray CoverPromised Land – An eOne Films’ Release

http://focusfeatures.com/promised_land

DVD Release Date: April 23rd, 2013

Rated 14A for coarse language and mature themes

Running time: 106 minutes

Gus Van Sant (dir.)

John Krasinski (screenplay)

Matt Damon (screenplay)

Dave Eggers (story)

Danny Elfman (music)

Matt Damon as Steve Butler

Frances McDormand as Sue Thomason

John Krasinski as Dustin Noble

Hal Holbrook as Frank Yates

Rosemarie DeWitt as Alice

Our reviews below:

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Promised Land DVD Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is a corporate salesman for Global, a company that uses whatever means possible to secure drilling rights to land rich in natural gases, which are released through a controversial practice known as fracking.  But Steve finds himself in way over his head and has his morals put to the test when he goes to a small town with his sales partner Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), to try and capitalize on the failing economy by buying off the land of the local farmers.  Although the promise of money seems to win everyone over at first, their questionable operation is threatened to be derailed by a brilliant science teacher, Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), and a mysterious environmentalist named Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) who is convinced that he can take down the corporation.

Directed by Gus Van Sant with an intelligent screenplay by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, Promised Land provides a thought provoking introduction to a pressing environmental issue, and it’s hard to walk away from the film in support of the process behind fracking.  With strong performances from everyone involved and a good twist in the final few scenes, the film serves as a quiet look at the way many people still try to pursue the elusive “American Dream,” even against the backdrop of environmental concern.

The Blu-ray includes an extended scene and a “making of” featurette.

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Promised Land DVD Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

In Promised Land, Matt Damon plays Steve Butler – a salesman for the natural gas company Global.  His job is to visit small towns with his partner Sue Thomason (Francis McDormand), and convince the residents to allow them to frack on their land.  The process of ‘fracking’ is to drill a big hole into the ground – with the aid of water and chemicals – in order to release the natural gases lying miles below the earth.  Unfortunately, this process also can pollute the water supply and surrounding land due to the chemicals used.

Butler doesn’t see this as a problem – he grew up in a small town himself that he watched go under financially because an industrial plant closed.  So, he sees his company coming into these towns and paying the residents to use their land as a way of helping.  To him, the benefits to the townspeople financially outweigh any negatives.  But in a town that should be an easy sell, Butler’s job gets a whole lot harder thanks to local resident (Hal Holbrook), and a newcomer who identifies himself as an environmentalist (John Krasinski) who both warn the residents of the dangers of this process.

The film is interesting, moving quietly along as we are given both sides, and we know for the most part where the characters are coming from – right or wrong.  It is good throughout, with very strong performances.  When a twist in the final act challenges our perceptions of if we even know ourselves who we should be standing behind, the result is a fascinating one of screenwriting as although you don’t necessarily see it coming, you can believe it in hindsight from the characters as well as how they react.

Overall, if the subject matter interests you, Promised Land is worth checking out.  It is a well made film that is worth seeing on DVD.

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Promised Land DVD Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Promised Land is a thought provoking film about the controversies regarding fracking.  When Global Gas salespeople Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Francis McDormand) visit a small Pennsylvania town, they try to offer leases to local farmers in order to drill for natural gas.  But the local science teacher, (Hal Holbrook), a wise elder who cares about the environment, brings up the issue of fracking, a process in which toxic chemicals are pumped into shale rock to free the natural gas inside.

Things become even more complicated when an up and coming environmentalist named Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) comes in with a tragic tale of how fracking caused the death of his cows on the dairy farm he came from.  With tragic pictures to match, Noble is trying to get the locals on his side.  Over time, a surprising revelation is made regarding the whole situation.

Promised Land is intelligent, engaging, and a really good mystery.  It explains the dangers of fracking in an easy to understand way, without ever preaching to people.  The screenwriting in the film is sharp, with a twist that one does not see coming.  The acting is great, with just enough underplay to make the film believable.  But what really drives home the film’s environmental message is the beautiful scenery.  Everything from the rolling green hills, the gorgeous miniature horses and other animals, the blue sky, and the distant trees, just makes one realize how much could be lost.  Danny Elfman’s haunting, minimalistic score reflects the beauty of the landscape well.

This is a clever film.  With little content except for language, it is suitable for older children and teens.  Promised Land will hopefully do what the film promotes, which is the protection of natural spaces for generations to come.

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Promised Land DVD Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

The release of the movie Promised Land on disc in time for Earth Day week is certainly appropriate.  Written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski, the story deals with the controversial practice of fracking by natural gas companies and the possible impacts on health and the environment.

Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and his business partner Sue Thomason (Francis McDormand) are marketing reps for a large natural gas company – Global Industries.  Their job is to go into small farming towns and convince individual farmland owners to sign long term leases that will give the company drilling rights on the property and a regular paycheque for the financially strapped farmers.  The sales duo are good at what they do so a little grumbling by a local retired high school teacher and amateur activist (Hal Holbrook) about the dangers of fracking doesn’t worry them too much.  They just need to spend a little more time getting to know the locals and work on convincing them one by one.

The local bar is always a good place to get people comfortable with you so that’s where the duo head.  Steve meets elementary teacher Alice (Rosemary DeWitt), who’s leaning towards being environmentally cautious.  The romantic tension between Alice and Steve is interrupted when another stranger comes into town.  Personable and confident environmentalist Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) mandates to get the attention of Alice and many of the locals with his stories of dead cows and farmland rendered useless by the natural gas drilling.  Steve and Sue are in for a bigger challenge than they anticipated.

Promised Land is well written and well acted.  The movie could have used a stronger sense of tension throughout, but the interesting plot-twist towards the end works well.  The film is thought-provoking and a good starting point for teens and adults interested in the whole subject of the environmental impact of “fracking” for natural gas.  Fans of the lead actors will also want to check out Promised Land.

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Promised Land DVD Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

Promised Land begins in the Grand Central Station Oyster Bar, where Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is being briefed on his next assignment with Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) in a small Pennsylvania town. Steve and Sue have proven to be the most successful team of carpetbaggers buying up shale gas fracking rights from rural landowners for the Global energy company. Having grown up in a small Iowa city ruined by company closure, Steve can empathize with people living marginally, offering hope for a better life with loads of money, while Sue can appeal to parents wanting to afford a decent education and future for their kids.

At first the town seems to be a soft touch, until they are challenged in a meeting about the environmental risks by Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), a retired engineer and science teacher. The project is further threatened by the arrival of Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), who has his own compelling story of a family farm ruined by fracking. Noble proves to be more than a match for Steve and Sue, managing to stay one step ahead of them with annoying confidence, and even stealing the single teacher Alice (Rosemary DeWitt) away from Steve’s charms. A sudden twist makes the town’s final decision clear.

Promised Land moves at a leisurely small town pace that gives us a chance to know and like the characters, making whatever choices they make understandable. As a result the message delivered by the script written by Damon and Krasinski from a story by (McSweeney’s “staggering genius”) Dave Eggars never seems heavy handed, rather maintaining an atmosphere of quiet tension under the direction of Gus Van Sant with a gentle Danny Elfman score.

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Consensus: Directed by Gus Van Sant, with strong performances and a smart screenplay by stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski, Promised Land is an entertaining film that raises awareness of an important environmental issue.  ***1/4 (Out of 4)

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