Review – Promised Land
Realism. Strange to hear from a sci-fi nut, but I really enjoy movies with a lot of realism in them. Okay, realism and time travel. Seriously though, I really enjoyed Promised Land (even though it’s taken me a week to review it), mainly because everything about it clicked as being real. The cast was tremendous, making the most of the dialogue and their chemistry was great. The story was grounded in reality and possibly pulled from the headlines. Everything about this movie seemed like it was really happening. Gus Van Sant’s directing of co-stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski’s script was the icing on the cake. Promised Land was a very good, very believable film.
Matt Damon stars as Steve Butler, a representative of Global Crosspower Solutions, a salesman who visits small towns, leasing land from farmers for the rights to drill on their property for the natural gas pockets below. Steve came from a small farming town that was devastated when the local Caterpillar factory closed down, so he knows what happens when the industry dries up in a farming town. When Steve and his partner Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) arrive in town, they expect an easy few days of work until they run into some opposition in the form of local high school teacher Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook) who advises the townsfolk to educate themselves on the company’s techniques of fracking the land. With the town now set to vote, Global’s problems compound as an environmentalist named Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) comes into the picture as well. Noble pushes all the sympathetic buttons with the townsfolk, and pushes Steve’s buttons as well. Noble points out all the evils of the gas company’s methods, and even shows proof of how his family farm was devastated by fracking. The movie could easily be about the greedy corporation looking to profit on the misfortune of others, but Butler himself has the kind of personal experience that keeps him believing that he is doing the right thing, no matter how many arguments may point to the contrary. When faced with the potentially devious operations of his company, Butler is quick to insist that he is not a bad guy, and Damon plays him with an earnestness that makes you believe that. If the environmentalist is supposed to be the “good guy” and the corporate salesman the “bad guy”, how come I wanted Steve to deck Dustin all movie long? Noble comes across as “too clean”, and I can see how his nice guy act would frustrate someone in Steve’s position. Noble even makes a move on the girl Butler’s interested in (local school teacher Alice played by Rosemarie DeWitt who I’ve seen in quite a few things recently, and have liked her more and more each time); so because of the equally great performances on both ends by Krasinski and Damon, I was rooting for the corporate salesman!
As the story moves on, we see the dirty dealings on both sides of the argument, but we also see the real people behind the arguments, and that “human” part of the story is what I really enjoyed. Apparently Matt Damon was going to direct Promised Land, but he instead decided to bring in former collaborator Gus Van Sant (remember Good Will Hunting?). I think Matt Damon is quite talented and I am interested to see him direct, but to step aside this time was probably the best decision. As he was already co-scripting and starring in the project, I think he would have spread himself too thin as a first time director.
I had seen the trailer for Promised Land several times this week at work, and decided to rent it, but the DVD copies were all out, so I had to go with the Blu Ray. Now, I usually think that Blu Ray is best for something “flashy”, something with effects or great sound that will really benefit from the enhanced definition; an action movie, a science fiction film, or a nicely animated cartoon. Lately I’ve noticed that the special features are getting weaker and fewer when you compare a film’s DVD and Blu Ray releases. I love the special features, so I may have to start watching more Blu Rays even if the production values of the film don’t really justify it. Watching Promised Land I did make a really cool Blu Ray special feature discovery. It’s called uHear, and apparently it’s been around for a few years on Universal Studio’s Blu Ray releases. It’s probably happened to everyone at some point, you’re watching a movie and you miss that bit of dialogue. There was a noise outside, the chair squeaked, you crunched a potato chip too loudly, the accent of the actors made it difficult to understand exactly what they said, or I’m just getting older and I can’t hear as well as I could in my youth….. That’s where uHear comes into play. On a uHear enabled Blu Ray you press the yellow button on your remote (I’m assuming that the yellow button is standard for all players) and the disc backs up 10 to 15 seconds and replays the scene with the subtitles on until you are back to where you were when you initially cued up the uHear feature. Now that is a really cool special feature.
Promised Land had a very intelligent script and story, realistic and relatable characters, and excellent performances from top to bottom making this one definitely worth watching.
Posted on 13-07-07, in 4 Star, Movie Reviews and tagged 4 star, Frances McDormand, Gus Van Sant, Hal Holbrook, John Krasinski, Matt Damon, movie, review, Rosemarie DeWitt, uHear. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.