Thursday, June 12, 2014

"Promised Land" with Frances McDormand and Matt Damon (2012)

Matt Damon and Frances McDormand both shine in this true to life story about a large energy firm coming to a small town with promises of big bucks for everyone who leases their land to the company for fracking. Damon plays Steve Butler, a hard charging rising star at Global Energy. His job is to visit towns which have the potential for natural gas deposits beneath the surface and then buy the lease rights from the cash strapped farmers with nothing left to sell but their futures.

There is a rumpled high school teacher Frank Yates; played with great effect by Hal Holbrook; in the town who shows up at the very first meeting between the residents and Steve Butler. He talks about the science behind fracking and why it is not in the best long term interests of the town. Steve challenges his assertions, only to become aware the teacher is really a retired MIT Engineer who teaches high school because he is bored.

As Steve and his partner, Sue Thomason, become more involved in the town they are drawn to different people. She is drawn to the local gun shop owner, while Steve is falling for a local school teacher named Alice; played by Rosemarie DeWitt;  he has met. These relationships have a way of undercutting Global’s sales pitch, and also manage to get under Steve’s skin as he comes to realize the full impact of what he is doing to another small town like the one in which he was raised.

When an unexpected environmental activist shows up to tell the town about all the dangers inherent in fracking, Steve is unnerved to the point of blowing the assignment. His partner has no such scruples, and is willing to continue in their efforts to deceive the town.

What happens next is unexpected and revealing. It puts a fine edge on the growing debate about fracking and what it means to the people who live in the areas affected. This is an important film to see as it tackles the issue in a way that is more revealing than just watching the news.

Very well written and directed, this film may not change your mind, but it will make you think about your opinion on fracking.

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