Promised Land

Directed by Gus Van Sant. With Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook, Scoot McNairy, Kiefer Sutherland, Meg Ryan

Born in the U.S. Heartland

by gaRis (@takisgaris)

This is the moment that signifies Matt Damon’s rerouting with regard to his already successful career. Freed from the shadow of the Bourne franchise, ready to reach for his artistic origins, by reteaming with his Good Will Hunting and Gerry partner, the archangel of independent American cinema Gus Van Sant. Promised Land was designed to mark Matt’s debut behind the camera, a project that was finalized having him penning the script, paired with the also staring here John Krasinski (The Office). This little, gentle and unapologetically benevolent story is a fine opportunity for Damon to strip off his hollywoodian glamour going the Eric Brockovich way. Above everything else, this is potentially where P.T.Anderson’s magnum opus There Will Be Blood should go script wise, in order to address the state of all things -rural America, where blood- thirsty oil companies (replace with “natural gas” for the trendier term) are deserting small villages overnight by fracking the leased earth with disastrous results for the local eco-system.

Matt Damon (Steve Butler) is an up and going representative working for Global, a natural gas giant ready to conquer little town McKinley, escorted by his wisecrack associate Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand). What seems to be another done deal becomes all of the sudden at stake, since the retired physicist now teacher Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), an octogenarian having amazing Google search powers, stands in his away, supported by the ultra-environmental activist Dustin Noble (Kransinski) who not only turns almost every McKinley inhabitant against Global’s perilous plans but also cockblocks him on the way to local teacher Alice’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) heart. Take note that Steve had his own share in experiencing what a giant like Global can do to farmers, but what served him well to sell his case thus far now turns into guilt and urge to step up against his employer.

For those are not well acquainted with Van Sant’s oeuvre, the film may provoke unfair criticism as wearing its righteousness on its sleeve. Even the twist amidst the third act may feel phony, a calculated script machination. I choose to digress, suggesting that this remarkably constructed morality tale, its Capraesque obviousness aside, is navigating through aptly nuanced colorings, avoiding stereotypical dramatization. Matt Damon’s understated, inconspicuous acting brings directly the George Clooney of Up in the Air and Michael Clayton to mind.

Conclusion: Most predominantly I was once again mesmerized by Van Sant’s bare back, lean direction, utterly efficacious in adapting the peaceful friendliness of the shooting location. Promised Land belongs in the same classification with Bernie, which essentially involves filmmaking about U.S. heartland, a silent majority so unheard and unsung after Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. album. Don’t be surprized if this could snatch an original screenplay nod, in a year that Matt’s buddy Ben Affleck has brought it to the next level with critical darling Argo.

World Premiere: 4 January 2013

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