DIRECTED BY Gus Van Sant
STARS Matt Damon, Frances McDormand
By all accounts, Matt Damon is a smart fellow and a sincere progressive, but it would be nice if he left his politics off the screen. It's not that I object to filmmakers dragging their beliefs onto the screen, but if one is going to pursue that route, then for God's sake, at least make the movie more than a tired polemic.
The actor's 2010 release Green Zone found him playing a U.S. Army officer whose search for WMDs in Iraq instead leads him to conclude that — say it ain't so, George! — the whole war was based on a lie perpetrated by the Bush administration. And now we get Promised Land, which finds him playing a natural-gas company spokesperson whose selling of the hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) technique to small-town rubes instead leads him to conclude that — gasp! — corporations really aren't people, regardless of what the Supreme Court insists.
Adapted by Damon and co-star John Krasinski from a story by Dave Eggers and directed by the wildly inconsistent Gus Van Sant, Promised Land employs endless screeds and silly plot maneuvers to push a scenario that would have benefitted from more depth. The controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing deserves serious treatment, and Damon and Krasinski (as a happy-go-lucky environmentalist) surround themselves with competent co-stars (Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook, Titus Welliver), but the end result is simply a fracking mess.
(To see Matt Brunson's lists of the Best & Worst Movies of 2012, go here.)