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Promised Land

HD   R Closed Captioning

Gus Van Sant

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About the Movie

Matt Damon stars in Promised Land, the compelling contemporary drama based on an original screenplay by John Krasinski and Damon and directed by Gus Van Sant (Milk, Good Will Hunting). Corporate salesman Steve Butler (Damon) has been dispatched to the rural town of McKinley with his sales partner (Frances McDormand) to offer much-needed relief to the economically hard-hit residents in exchange for drilling rights to their properties. What seems like an easy job for the duo quickly becomes complicated by a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook), a slick environmental activist (Krasinski), and Steve's interest in a local woman (Rosemarie DeWitt). As they grapple with a surprising array of both open hearts and closed doors, the outsiders soon discover the strength of an American small town at a crossroads.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 147
  • Fresh: 75
  • Rotten: 72
  • Average Rating: 5.9/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: Damon and Krasinski co-wrote the script, and they do a nice job of giving the usual confrontations a gentle and surprising spin. – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, Jan 2, 2013

Fresh: Damon's performance as corporate salesman Steve Butler is one of his best. – Claudia Puig, USA Today, Jan 3, 2013

Rotten: "Promised Land" offers an experience that's alternately amusing and frustrating, full of impassioned earnestness as well as saggy sections. – Christy Lemire, Associated Press, Dec 31, 2012

Rotten: A well-intentioned look at a fraught issue, but the Damon-Krasinski screenplay ultimately opts for Hollywood oversimplification. – Rafer Guzman, Newsday, Jan 3, 2013

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews


For better and for worse, the flicks of Gus Van Sant are usually a novelty. With very little consistency to his style, rarely can you predict the path he'll take next as a filmmaker. Despite enthralling both audiences and critics with "Good Will Hunting" back in 1997, he seemingly went out of his way to enrage them with a shot-for-shot color remake of Hitchcock's iconic "Psycho" the very next year. Nevertheless, the director's willingness to continue experimenting ensures his films are always worth a watch, and while that can still be said for "Promised Land," his latest film collaboration with star and co-writer Matt Damon, it can only be said halfheartedly. The movie centers on Steve Butler (Damon), a professional salesman for a natural gas company hoping to get enough permission to drill in a small rural town that's been hit hard by the country's economic decline. At first, Steve and his sales partner (Frances McDormand) find the majority of local residents taking interest in all the proposed financial opportunities, but with the arrival of a pesky (and persuasive) environmentalist (John Krasinski), the community quickly changes their tune and start reaching for their pitchforks. The flick as a whole has been branded by many as "the anti-fracking film." For those who don't know, "fracking" is a slang term for hydraulic fracturing: a controversial way of getting oil and gas out of the earth due to its specific tendency to contaminate the drilled area's ground water. Understandably, "Promised Land" delves through the subject matter steeped in what could almost appear to be a political statement, and most will look at it that way in the end. But there's much more depth to be found in the performances and characters than there are the politics, and despite just a few moments of incredulous plotting, this film mostly does well to retain its authenticity, in no small part due to Damon and McDormand's excellent performances, as well as their intelligent dialogue. With endearing everyman naivety, Damon deftly explores the moral minefield of desperately trying to do what's right in the face of being employed to do what's wrong. Meanwhile, McDormand is completely believable in her simplistic yet heartfelt portrayal of a single mother whose job has overtaken nearly every single aspect of her personal life. Where the film ultimately does fumble, however, is the story. While Damon, McDormand, and Krasinski have penned real, genuine characters, the whole plot surrounding them is only sporadically compelling. The emotion is there, but aside from a few standout moments - such as one blistering confrontation by Damon in a bar - "Promised Land's" earnest, albeit majorly contrived storytelling never elicits much more than mild intrigue at times. These issues, however distracting, are somewhat alleviated by Sant's careful direction and Damon's standout lead performance, making for an easily digestible yet forgettable contemporary drama with a final act that feels entirely frustrating in its decision to leave less questions answered than solved. At the end of the day, this is an awkwardly unresolved film that strives to delve deep into the nationwide issue of hydraulic fracturing in residential areas, but never stops to take a look at both sides of the coin or even come to a concise conclusion about the drilling debate on its own. It may benefit from a likable cast and an engaging morality tale, but "Promised Land" ultimately ends up suffering due to its weighty ambitions, conventional plotting, and unwillingness to reconcile the story with all its political aims. As long as you can look past the film's narrative implausibility and often heavy-handed execution, it still makes for a solidly engaging flick. At the very least, it's worth a one-time rent for those looking to watch a well-acted drama. Just don't expect anything Oscar-worthy.

Certainly is no Erin Brockovitch

There is a difference between a true story and a story that has a political agenda. Matt Damon wastes your time trying to convince you about 'what is right'. He might as well join the Russian journalists that write Pravda. Save your money and time and move on to a better flick and argument.


Worst movie I have seen in many years. Depicts the energy field as full of corrupt and moral deprived people. Shame on all involved for taking part in this film. Been helping mineral owners all my life. Those that have had issues have all been compensated and the companies involved have always worked to solve problems. Shame on you Mat Damon!