Written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski, Gus Van Sant’s The Promised Land is yet another of the director’s pet morality projects that seek to dignify the political causes he identifies with the most – and which he thinks are underserved by other media (see the superb Milk for full evidence of this).
The Promised Land stars Matt Damon as a do-gooder corporate salesman and John Krasinski as a do-gooder environmentalist, both of whom want the owners of a relatively unglamorous piece of land to hand their stake over. Damon’s character wants the land so that his company can extract natural gas from under the soil and turn a tidy profit. Krasinski’s character wants the locals to keep their land and never surrender to the profit motive that he knows has no conscience. It’s the 47% argument all over again – us vs. them, the haves vs. the have nots, the plunderers vs. the preservationists.
The movie is a tad too simplistic for its own good. Earth good, moneymaking bad, is basically what it seems to be aching to say. We’ve seen this in cinema since time immemorial. That being said, the performances are top notch, especially Rose Marie Dewitt as a Midwestern school teacher, underplaying her part with that nimble touch she always seem to capture so perfectly. Damon puts the Midwestern accent on a little thick, and we could do with fewer shots of Krasinski in swamp boots, but all in all, this is a movie worth checking out if for no other reason it reminds you that the stewards of the Earth are up against man, machine, and money.