Movie Review: Promised Land

Hydraulic fracturing – colloquially known as fraccing:

Hydraulic fracturing is the fracturing of various rock layers by a pressurized liquid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples—and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracturing, commonly known as fraccing, fraccing, or frackling, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction. This type of fracturing creates fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations.

promised landSteve Butler (Matt Damon) is a corporate salesman for Global, a natural gas company. His partner is Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand). Together they swoop in on a midwestern town with the objective to sign land leases with the farmers to allow Global to drill for natural gas on their land.

Steve comes from humble beginnings, growing up on a farm himself, and knows how to connect to the people. Farming towns are dying. Revenues are down. The only thing keeping the farms afloat are  government subsidies. People can’t make ends meet. When Steve and Sue come in and offer big down payments and large percentages of the profits, the people see nothing but dollar signs.

Until Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) rolls into town in a pickup truck and introduces himself as an environmentalist and starts educating the people about the reality of fraccing. In a one-man battle against a billion-dollar company, he seems to make steady progress. But not all things are always what they seem.

Promised Land is an engaging film that takes on one of the central conflicts in our world where jobs are hard to find, small farming is dying, greenhouse gas concentrations in our air are shooting up, and everyone wants to reduce our dependency on foreign fossil fuels. America has more natural gas resources than any other country in the world. All we have to do is get it out safely.

I was prepared for the inevitable end – when a sudden twist gave me pause. Promised Land got me thinking.

Rating: ** 1/2

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