Promised Land review by George Hooper - Cinema Paradiso
It’s been 16 years since Matt Damon has worked with Gus Van Sant, unless you count the hilarious cameo the two have in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and Promised Land oddly feels like a much more personal film for the two as they work yet again from a script written by Damon and co-star John Krasinski.
Following two employees of a natural gas company named Global, Steve (Damon) is a man selling a better life and Sue (Frances McDormand) is a woman just doing a job for a better life with her son. The two come to a small country community to buy the rights to the shale under their land but when Dustin (Krasinski), an environmentalist arrives their attempts to convince the community to sell becomes an uphill struggle.
The film really follows Steve as his connection to this small community through mutual problems and issues begins to corrupt his conviction as he tries to persuade the community to ‘save itself’ as he puts it. The differing views between the community and Steve may seem like the films point but what emerges from a late twist is that the film is really about the two sides of the man, the conflicting sides of a man who deeply understands the people he is conning.
Damon makes this struggle engaging while also making Steve’s more abrasive aspects more tolerable. Krasinski is equally impressive as Dustin, a man who is just as hidden and two faced, an environmentalist looking to get one up on not just Global but also everyone around him. Not driven by conviction but by his love of the act of fighting, of battling something to make himself feel better, the film paints him like the bad guy and ultimately its hard not to see him like one but deep down the film makes his point without stooping to his level.
Promised Land is a beautiful film not just in its layered story but also in the way Van Sant shoots it, bringing the best out of the countryside he is praising, the community and lifestyle shining through the films self centred plot to show a side of America that is slowly slipping away, the kind of community we all secretly crave even if we don’t accept it.