Matt Damon co-wrote and co-produced A Promised Land, a film about the evils of fracking. This has a boring ring to it. But it is not. Matt Damon films are not boring. As Jason Bourne he has assured us of that. Also in 2007, Damon was chosen as People's Sexiest Man Alive, an image he downplays. No, he is into philanthropy and humanitarian causes. Shedding light on fracking and how it is damaging our country is his latest and most important concern. When he believes in shedding light on an injustice, his eyes get a glint and determination that is compelling. You want to know what he is thinking and the only way to know this is to watch the film. Listen to him. Closely. His body cables clues. His movement is at times wiry.
This drama is directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) and stars Damon (Steve Butler) as a corporate salesman who travels through Midwestern farm country to buy drilling rights from struggling farmers. Frances McDormand (Sue Thomason) is his partner. They intend to extract natural gas by drilling deep within the earth by means of fracking and offer these impoverished farmers huge sums to lease their land. They make all sorts of Elmer Gantry promises to the gullible landowners and it is sad to see how these folks are manipulated by the country con of these ace salesmen.
More manipulation enters in the form of co-writer John Krasinski (Dustin Noble), who plays an environmental activist who is opposed to Butler Industries pillaging the land. Noble slanders Steve to thwart Thomason and Butler's chances of getting signed contracts with the townspeople while Noble is publicly speaking out against them.
Meanwhile Hal Holbrook (Frank Yates) as a school teacher sees goodness in Steve and tries to talk him out of working for Butler Industries and to do something honorable with his life. To have a sense of purpose. Fulfilling purpose. Local landowner and school teacher Rosemarie DeWitt (Alice) also sees qualities in Steve, who is attracted to her, but she is attracted to the perceived purity of Krasinski. A Promised Land portrays an America where big business and the strength of the small town community converge. A dynamite O'Henry conclusion will surprise you.
The soundtrack is reminiscent of early Paul Simon while the countryside is filmed in a nostalgic oh-why-don't-we-see-this-rural-beauty-more-often landscape. Your heart feels a bit of what Matt Damon may feel when he wants to protect it from America's corporate greed. And why he has fought for this film. A Promised Land's pace is a tad slow at times, but if you allow yourself to become a part of its love for rural America, you will enjoy this film, an homage to our countryside.