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film review: promised land

wait, is nylon guys cover star john krasinski the good guy or the bad guy in this movie?

by: rebecca willa davis

January 03 2013

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Some people believe that art should remain separate from politics--but I'm not among them. Sure, Hollywood is great at churning out movies that are all about entertainment value, but there's also a place within the biz for thought-provoking films and documentaries. But I'll admit: When I first heard the backstory to Promised Land--a film about fracking, based off of a Dave Eggers story that was turned into a screenplay by Matt Damon and John Krasinski--I kind of rolled my eyes. It's like they wanted to become this "Hollywood liberal elite" cliche that certain fringe-types spew out, releasing an all-too-earnest movie that almost makes you want to turn against a cause you whole-heartedly believe in (which, in my case, is that fracking is not worth the environmental and health devastation that inevitably comes after).

And for the first 20 or so minutes, that's what you've got. Promised Land, which comes out nationwide January 4, follows Steve Butler and Sue Thomason (played by Damon and the always amazing Frances McDormand), two city slickers who come into the rural town of McKinley to buy up drilling rights for their company. At first, the locals seem to bite, but then at a town meeting a curmudgeonly schoolteacher confronts them over what he deems misleading practices. All going as planned, right? Not exactly: Just as you think you know the way this movie is going to unfold, environmental activist and friendly bro Dustin Noble (played by our NYLON Guys cover star John Krasinski) shows up in town. And the thing is, though you're supposed to like this anti-fracking activist…you don't.

And that's just the beginning of the surprising twists and turns this film makes. Does it ever convince me that fracking is a necessary evil or the key to revitalizing rural America? No--but it also made me question my assumptions about who the good and bad guys are in this debate. And for the final 20 minutes alone, it's worth the price of admission.

Visit focusfeatures.com/promised_land for more info.

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