Promised Land
dir Gus Van Sant
scr John Krasinski, Matt Damon
prd John Krasinski, Matt Damon, Chris Moore
with Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook, Titus Welliver, Scoot McNairy, Lucas Black, Tim Guinee, Terry Kinney, Sara Lindsey, Johnny Cicco
release US 28.Dec.12, UK 19.Apr.13
12/US Focus 1h46
Promised Land
The outsiders: McDormand and Damon

krasinski dewitt holbrook
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Promised Land Van Sant tackles a contentious issue with a gentle pace, strong characters and an intriguingly measured tone. This is a strikingly well-made film that makes it very clear which side of the argument it is taking, but never gets heavy-handed about it. And the engaging characters make it easy to identify with both sides.

In line for a big promotion, Steve (Damon) joins colleague Sue (McDormand) in a Pennsylvania farming town, where their goal is to secure leases that will allow their company to drill for natural gas. The farmers need the cash to stay afloat, but Steve and Sue face fierce opposition from retired scientist Frank (Holbrook) and meddling environmentalist Dustin (Krasinski), who informs the whole town about the real dangers of fracking and starts a grassroots campaign against the multinational corporation. But is anyone telling the truth here?

Krasinski and Damon's script draws us into the story in several intriguing ways, not least by letting us see the events through Steve's eyes. We know he's a good guy who cares about the farmers and sees the risks as minimal. And his low-key flirtation with local teacher Alice (DeWitt) adds another engaging wrinkle, although since Dustin also pursues her, she's obviously meant to represent the town's spoils. Thankfully, the entire cast play their roles with unaffected authenticity, generating improv-like moments of witty interaction.

Technically the film is unhurried and pristine, with naturalistic cinematography by Linus Sandgren and a cleverly evocative Danny Elfman score. This lets Van Sant capture the raw natural beauty of the setting, earthy honesty of the characters and the delicate balance of this small community within a world that's in economic turmoil.

Fracking is an issue that's charged with opinion, so it's especially impressive that the script never devolves into an all-out rant, admitting that both sides have a point and focussing on how intelligent, informed people come to very different opinions. This is an unusually mature, complex approach for a Hollywood film. We never doubt that the filmmakers lean toward playing it safe, reluctant to risk the pastoral beauty of the American landscape for a quick profit, but they also acknowledge that the world is changing and we need to move forward.

cert 15 themes, language, some violence 20.Nov.12

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