Promised Land

12 Jan

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Synopsis: “A salesman for a natural gas company experiences life-changing events after arriving in a small town, where his corporation wants to tap into the available resources.” (Rated R; 1 hour 46 minutes)

This movie is actually surprising. Not because it tugs at your heartstrings, or makes you think, or any of those other cliches that people like to say about movies with messages. It’s surprising because you expect it to be “another movie about the big, bad company doing bad things to small town folk” where you know exactly what’s going to happen from start to finish, and everyone plays their predictable part…it’s a pleasant surprise where everything is similar to what you expect but then taken to the next level.

The acting? Damn solid, nothing you’ll remember a week from now but always good. And a special shout-out goes to Hal Holbrook who in his late 80’s is doing some of the best work of his career (anyone see Into the Wild? Impressive movie, AMAZING performance I still remember from him supporting Emile Hirsch). Also, as Seth Isenberg said after the movie, for once the small town folks weren’t silly caricatures of small town folks, they actually were portrayed with respect, flaws, and depth, and not just silly hillbilly bumpkins cocking their shotguns and yelling, “get off m’ land!” while spitting chewing tobacco on the ground.

The plot? Pretty much what you think it’ll be overall; once you’ve seen Erin Brockovich (which sort of kick-started a wave of environmental bad guys against the little man movies) and A Civil Action (the “John Travolta Erin Brockovich movie”), you kind of know what to expect from the story. Those two were about the water supply doing bad things to small towns, this one about natural gas, same difference overall.

The writing? That’s where it gets interesting. I didn’t realize that the two writers are also the two stars of the movie: Matt Damon and John Krasinski (aka Jim from The Office). It was also directed by Gus Van Sant (aka director of Damon’s Good Will Hunting). While it wasn’t a comedy, it had some good witty lines, and overall cleverly tied the story together in an interesting way. The SURPRISE is the way they decided to take the predictable story-line and flip things on its head. Without giving any spoilers (Btw, I HATE people who spoil movies and TV shows before I can watch them myself so I’ll do my damnest to never do that here!), instead of taking the big bad company people and making them the antagonists, and making the main character the guy who’s fighting that big bad company, they actually have Matt Damon playing the rep for that company, who fights and believes in it, and the do-gooder fighting against the big, bad company is the side character (John Krasinski) who never becomes someone you follow as anything but a thorn in Matt Damon’s side.

It’s a very different way to go with things, and not the way I’ve come to expect my movies, and that’s a good and refreshing thing.

I also won’t get into it because it WOULD be a spoiler, but the plot develops in a freshly unpredictable way. Yes I enjoy most predictable, cliched movies that are out there, but I also absolutely appreciate when they deviate from the norm, and this one did it just enough for me to give it an extra recommendation.

The movie wasn’t as great as Thank You For Smoking, a message movie that was funnier, sharper and deeper than this, but it was better than The Rainmaker and possibly A Civil Action, both solidly made message movies that didn’t really do anything outside of the box that you expect.

Quality Rating: B+

Boaz Rating: B+

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