Matt Damon’s Promised Land is a passion project against the potential downside of the energy creating process known as fracking. Only Damon, who starred and co-wrote the 2012 drama, instinctively knew telling that tale the way he wanted to wouldn’t soar at the box office.
So Damon compromised, a sense one gets while watching the film anew on Blu-ray as well as its “making of” digital extra.
The film casts Damon as a salesman trying to pitch an impoverished farmers on selling their land to be fracked. The locals would get a huge cash payment, and his company would have plenty of new earth to plunder.
Enter a dyed in the wool environmentalist (John Krasinski) who rallies the town’s skeptics against the fracking deal. Now, Damon’s salesman must battle back against science “realities” as well as his own muddled sense of decency.
The film makes good on its promise to demonize the corporation behind fracking–including a third act twist that sends the film’s minor pleasures swirling down the drain. Yet Promised Land doesn’t line up any scientific arguments of note against fracking. The one scene that attempts to do that is literally dumbed down for children to understand.
That leaves a project teeming with self-doubt, and it shows in the finished product. Audiences can feel where Damon and co. are leading them, but since the filmmakers lack the courage of their own convictions, the film doesn’t even succeed as a bristling polemic. It’s simply a film with a spare, rural beauty, another measured turn by Damon and a compromised view point that wouldn’t turn any serious minded viewer against fracking–arguably the real goal of the film.
The “making of” extra including in the release doesn’t go near fracking–or the politics behind it. It’s merely a back slapping exercise, the kind too often seen on home video releases. Damon’s media appearances on behalf of the film mirrored that cautious approach.
Promised Land proved to be a box office dud despite Damon’s creative hesitations, and its awards season timing didn’t lead to any nominations of consequence.