But even with the surprising turn, the movie never really escapes from a sense of predictability.
Matt Damon plays Steve, a natural gas company executive who’s sent into a farming community to secure leases for drilling.
He and his partner, Sue (Frances McDormand), are masters at this, partially because of Steve’s history. He was raised in an Iowa farming town that went bust after a plant closed. He knows about hard times and how handy money can be.
This time, Steve has a pair of obstacles he’s not used to. The first is Frank, a science teacher played by Hal Holbrook. Companies use a technique called fracking to get to the gas, and Frank isn’t sure about the long-term effects of the process.
Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) is an environmental activist who seems to have no doubt about the harm caused by fracking.
Before long, Dustin has convinced the town’s citizens to put anti-fracking posters in their yards, frustrating Steve’s efforts.
To add insult to injury, Dustin also is dating Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt), the woman Steve would love to date, if he only had the gumption to actually ask her out.
Damon and Krasinski wrote the screenplay from a story by Dave Eggers. I have no problems with the way they handle the environmental stuff. I think they show the two sides of the debate evenly – enough to probably make both environmentalists and gas company executives angry with the portrayals.
The writers also deliver a nifty twist. The problem with “Promised Land” is that twist doesn’t change anything about the prediction I made when I first saw Damon on screen. The inevitability of Steve’s transformation sinks whatever lofty ambitions the filmmakers had.
I give “Promised Land” a C minus.
It’s showing at the Cinemark in Tupelo, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville.
Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.
Kelli Karlson with Wizard 106.7 gives “Promised Land” a C.
“It left me flat. I’d rather see ‘Les Mis’ again.”