Promised Land – 3/5 Movie Reviews by Ry!

Promised Land – 3/5 – Films with a message; they are the kind of films that can hit with great achievement or fall flat at a second’s notice.  When it comes to films with a message, they sometimes have a biased notion towards one view or another.  Sometimes, that biased notion is put to the side so that the film can show a general view of what the message is about.  When it comes to this Matt Damon film, you can tell the message of self-reliance of energy is strong, but the ‘at what cost’ message that is also presented helps show, which side of the coin you want to be on.  A message of this kind would have been great, if it wasn’t for a sloppy direction.  In the end, you have a film with a good message, but gets lost in what is an average film.

The premise of the film is as followed:

Corporate salesman, Steve Butler (Damon) and his partner, Sue Thomason (McDormand), arrive in a small town that has been hit hard by the economy.  These two outsiders see a chance for folks to accept their company’s offer.  This offer is for drilling rights to their properties, known as fracking.  What seems like a normal day at the office, turns into a complicated scenario by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Holbrook), along with a grassroots campaign led by an environmentalist (Krasinski).  Along the way, Steve learns what the real truth is and what worth means to him.

When it comes to the acting, Matt Damon takes the lead in this film.  With him being the main lead, Steve Butler, you see his acting in full force.  He creates a person that is conflicted with his rural town roots versus a man who wants to succeed, with providing the town with wealth they have never seen.   The cost of this wealth does come with a price.  During the movie, Steve learns what that price is, and starts to think, is the wealth worth losing their homes and land.  This is where the confliction occurs, and Damon does a good job in creating these conflicting layers in Steve Butler.  You know he is good at heart, but is blinded by money and ambition. Matt Damon creates a wonderful character, but it isn’t an amazing performance.  You see the typical Damon antics in his character, in being humble and arrogant, but nothing that will stand out or make you care about Steve Butler.  In the supporting cast, you get a hodge podge of stars you will know from other movies and TV shows.  You have his partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) a local shop owner (Titus Welliever) the respected school teacher (Hal Holbrook) and the environmentalist (John Krasinski).  Each of them does respectable jobs in their roles.  They provide quality characters to help define both sides of the message in the film.  In each character, they provide the ideas that or either for or against the idea of drilling to energy independence.  In only defining the bullets for the films pros and cons, they aren’t stand out characters.  You see them as one-dimensional, and only help move the story along.  The only quality in their roles is showing down-to-earth people; real people you may find in your everyday life.  They don’t overdue or underwhelm in delivery, but keep you focused on the movie at hand.

The direction is very simply, a movie with a message.  That message is the pros and cons against the idea of drilling for natural gas.  As much as it is a clean source of energy, it has its drawbacks, as it may destroy the land, crops and animals.  The one good thing with the simplified script is that it doesn’t fret one side is greater than the other.  There are no biased attempts for you to think one way, but at the same time you don’t feel as if you’re being preached at to pick a side.  The ‘simplified’ approach helps the dialogue feel real an authentic.  In making it feel this way, the direction tends to bleed into side character stories/development, and brings other parts of the film (including a mellowed love story and the fight against the environmentalist) to the forefront.  This brings a feeling of worth to certain characters that aren’t really the focal point, and creates character development that gets lost behind the real purpose of the film.  This also creates a conflicting tone to the overall experience of the movie, as the audience will lose steady focus.   With the lack of focus, you never have a chance to connect with either the characters or message, and you’re left with an average film experience.  This drawback keeps the movie’s climax from being a great climax, because the speech given by Matt Damon was worthy of a great climax.  By the end, you got the message, but didn’t care one way or another.

The cinematography of this film was a great standout to an alright film.  You feel the simple touch of rural America.  It helps prop an ‘everyday life’ mentality, and makes you feel as if you’re part of the typical country farms, homes and small town places.   The score was a welcomed layer to the film, and help add to the ‘everyday America’ feel.

Overall, this is an average movie, which had a message that gets lost in the melodrama of the characters side stories and lives.  Matt Damon gives a decent performance, as the visuals help add some depth in creating ‘everyday America’.  I’d recommend as a matinee viewing, but nothing more than that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *