In Promised Land Matt Damon (who wrote the script with co-star John Krasinski) plays Steve Butler, a nice guy who believes in what he does and who has come to the small town of McKinley, PA with his more pragmatic co-worker Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) in order to convince the townsfolk to lease their land to a natural gas corporation.
Some are easily convinced by the chance to earn millions while hardly surviving on agriculture alone, others like local teacher Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook) are less easily convinced. And then there’s the charming environmentalist Dustin Noble (Krasinski) who not only blocks Butler every step of the way but also becomes his rival in the storyline that involves sassy science teacher Rosemarie DeWitt.
If you can’t tell right away that Butler represents the bad guys in this story, director Gus Van Sant will help you by frowning really hard at the big, evil corporation. Fracking (which extracts the gas by high-speed drilling of water and chemicals) is after all still a rather controversial process that can have disastrous consequences for the environment. That’s why it is a bit unfortunate that the story doesn’t dig just a little deeper. The fact that Promised Land is still a rather enjoyable movie despite only scratching the surface is largely thanks to the solid cast.