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by Leonard Maltin
December 26, 2012 9:19 PM
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Rosemarie DeWitt-Matt Damon-485
Photo by Scott Green - Courtesy of Focus Features

I give this movie’s costars and creators, Matt Damon and John Krasinski, credit for making a “message movie” as palatable and entertaining as Promised Land. With appealing actors and an attractive location it hums along pretty nicely…but ultimately the film has to show its hand and that’s when the story disintegrates. As writers, and concerned citizens, Damon and Krasinski may be content to expose moviegoers to the dangers of fracking—drilling for natural gas underground—but they’ve fallen short of making a really good film.

Damon is likable as a savvy corporate representative who, along with an equally sharp colleague (Frances McDormand), is dispatched to a rural community to persuade its beleaguered farmers to sign over drilling rights to their land. This proves to be tougher than he anticipated. There’s a light romantic subplot involving Rosemarie DeWitt, which serves as relief from the central narrative. Krasinski turns up as an outside organizer who tries to counter Damon’s efforts and expose the underside of the company he represents.

John Krasinski-325
Photo by Scott Green - Courtesy of Focus Features

The screenplay, based on a story by Dave Eggers, isn’t bad. It imbues its characters with colorful traits and gives them animated dialogue exchanges. But I didn’t buy the crucial story twist that climaxes the film. It’s completely inconsistent with the rest of the picture. Damon has this job because he’s supposed to be a smart cookie with lots of experience; the writers would have us believe that he turns naïve and foolish overnight.      

Hal Holbrook, Titus Welliver, and other talented actors do their best, and director Gus Van Sant maintains a lively pace. But Promised Land is a polemic posing as a movie, and it can’t quite pull off the ruse.

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  • Jeffrey | December 27, 2012 10:12 AMReply

    I'm happy that Maltin does not give any film a free pass, no matter how impressive its lineup. I still plan on seeing this film. Any collaboration between Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant is worth seeing, even if its not comparable to their brilliant work of the past.

  • Milkman | December 27, 2012 1:48 AMReply

    Nicely written, Leonard. Thank you. My own experience has been to avoid any movie starring John Krasinski. I'm sure he's a nice, likeable guy and he certainly carries his weight on "The Office," but like Zach Braff, he's just not movie material Or like Paul Rudd. They just don't have "it." And when was the last good movie Matt Damon was in???? Sad.

  • Visitor | December 28, 2012 1:57 PM

    Actually, it was about the same as the original True Grit, but neither movie is that great.

  • Chris L. | December 27, 2012 7:22 PM

    To answer your last question: "True Grit." Better than the 1969 version, and a Coen Brothers vision to its core.

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