Wild Young Minds: 'Promised Land': dull story at first turns out to be a great film with an amazing plot

Friday, February 22, 2013

'Promised Land': dull story at first turns out to be a great film with an amazing plot

Last Tuesday I went to the movies with my dad for old time's sake. 'Promised Land' by Gus van Sant (who also made Milk and Good Will Hunting), starring Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Frances McDormand. At first the story didn't appeal to me very much. It was about two salespeople working for Global, an energy company specialized in fracking. Fracking is a process of obtaining natural gass underground. They go to a small village to persuade land owners to sign leases, by telling them that it can make them millionaires.

As you might understand, the idea of a film about gass, a small village and business isn't really my thing. I did really like Gus van Sant's previous films, so it wasn't such a bad idea to just go. And 'Promised Land' actually turned out to be a really interesting and fascinating movie with an amazing plot.

Let me tell you a bit more about the content. As I said, it is about two salespeople, Steve and Sue (Matt Damon and Frances McDormand). Steve has just been promoted and is very good at his job, just like Sue. They arrive in a farm village in Pennsylvania, which has a long history of farming families. Steve came from a small town himself and his family owned a farm as well, so he uses his story to persuade people to sign a contract with Global. He promises it's gonna make them millionaires, because the estimated worth of the gass in the ground is about 30 million (though it's actually 150 million), which he doesn't say, because it will lead to less profit for Global.

 The sales are going very well and Steve and Sue are highly succesfull in the village. Until the town meeting, where a very old high school teacher raises the question of the safety of fracking. He's specialized in the subject and this leads to the decision of a community vote. Steve and Sue haven't taken such a threat in consideration, and when Dustin Noble arrives in the town the challenge is even bigger. Dustin Noble is an environmental advocate and wants to do everything to destroy Global. He manages to do this very well because the village people are all very charmed by him and can relate to his story.
Meanwhile there's also a little love going on. Steve meets Alice, a lovely lady who's also a teacher, in a bar. They get along really well, but as Dustin Noble gets more support and Global is more and more jeered at, it looks like Alice chooses Dustin's side as well.

When the going gets tougher and tougher and Global seems to have lost, a package arrives in Steve and Sue's motel, which shines a completely different light on the entire business. That's all I'm going to tell you, since the plot is brilliant and it would be a big shame if you'd already know it.

What I really like about 'Promised Land' is the fact that it keeps holding your attention. There was only time when I thought, let's bring something positive now, when the situation was looking a bit too hopeless. But besides that, and even though it was about gass and farming, the film was interesting the whole time. 

It also has a few very humorous yet subtle situations and comments. Especially the friendly relationship between Steve and Sue. Furthermore, I found it a plus point that it was all really credible. Unlike many movies, the characters weren't all that goodlooking. Sue, for example, is a wrinkled and make-upless middle aged woman, and all the village people were very boorish. Matt Damon was perfect for the leading role, typically American and capable of playing a serious yet charming guy.

If you want to see a fascinating story, which relates to our time perfectly well, you should definitely see 'Promised Land'. Typically arthouse, simple and humorous.

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