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“Promised Land” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

December 26, 2012

Screen shot 2012-12-26 at 10.06.44 AMWho doesn’t like movies with a message? Huh? If you’re looking for that last minute 2012 film that will leave an impacting message, or leave you feeling conflicted about how this world truly works…see “West of Memphis”. Ok, that film might be a little hard to find right now, unless you live in NY/LA. However, Gus Van Sant’s latest drama, written by the films stars, Matt Damon & John Krasinski, will give you just that.

Steve Butler (Damon) is an ace corporate salesman who is sent along with his partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), to close a key rural town in his company’s expansion plans. With the town having been hit hard by the economic decline of recent years, the two outsiders see the local citizens as likely to accept their company’s offer, for drilling rights to their properties, as much-needed relief of natural gas. What seems like an easy job for the duo becomes complicated by the objection of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) with support from a hippie friendly campaign led by an environmentalist, Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), as well as the interest of a local woman (Rosemarie DeWitt) Steve has feelings for, conflicting with his better judgment.

The movies overall tactic is to have the audience judge the Steve & Dustin, who is the more noble man here? Who’s in this town doing a job they truly believe in and it-so-facto, do they believe in what they’re pitching to the people? Steve believes in giving people hope, as much as Dustin does, however differences of course is the two forces are negating what the towns people really want. Steve promises a newer & better life, higher income, and a greater education for kids. Dustin promises to stop Steve from poisoning the land and ruining the town’s crops.

Screen shot 2012-12-26 at 10.07.01 AMDamon & Krasinski’s script is a strong one, it may be a little rough around the edges and the middle does get a bit tedious, but I like how the movie begins to unfold with such a daring question of morality. Opinions, morals, and dignity begin to blur into a grey area for both parties in the film, similar and sometimes different strategies are made up. The audience isn’t dumb, Damon & Krasinski know this, but I think what they were trying to convey was to fool us on the moral obligations we face and how they can be manipulated.

The movie gives us solid performances all around, Damon of course is an ideal match for this lead role, he’s the kind of person you would want in your home selling a pitch for the high life. Hal Holbrook gives another stellar supporting performance, much to his acting chops from “Into the Wild”, which he was nominated for. This is one of those movies were a strong supporting cast keeps the film a float long enough to cherish the movies overall message. It’s a people’s story, a movie simply for people, and while this may sound eccentric, I think after seeing the movie for yourself, you’ll understand what I mean by that statement.

GRADE: B+

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