"Promised Land:" Simple Plot, Complex Story
By Katherine Noland
Jan 10, 2013 - 7:57:05 PM

HOLLYWOOD—Viewers of Gus Van Sant’s newest film, “Promised Land,” are promised (no pun intended) the eye opening experience of what it means to have the conflicting forces of pride in your roots with the will to change what may no longer feel is right.

Matt Damn and John Krasinski in "Promise Land"


With limited release on December 28, 2012 and nationwide exposure on January 4, 2013, “Promised Land,” written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, tells the story of a billion dollar company called Global Crosspower Solutions and its intended drilling for natural gas in the small farming town in Pennsylvania, a process known as “fracking.” After a science teacher from the town’s high school raises the questionable outcomes of this newer innovation, the firm’s consultants Steve Butler, played by Damon “Bourne” series, “Saving Private Ryan,” “Oceans” trilogy, “The Departed" and Sue Thomason played by Frances McDormand “Fargo,” “Almost Famous,” “Moonrise Kingdom” stand their ground in the town with the attempt to persuade landowners to give them drilling rights, and the promise of financial growth that the town desperately needs.


John Krasinki “The Office” portrays Dustin, who gives way to more problems for Steve and Sue after showing pictures of what natural gas drilling has done to his hometown, photos we later find out to be doctored. My plot synopsis must end here, as I have given enough away already, but for the sake of analysis, it should be noted that what we come to find out about Dustin, a caring environmentalist who seemingly only wants to help, is that he is not exactly who he says he is. This throws a curve ball that brings the theme of the film to immediate consciousness among viewers.



“Promised Land” brings about the ultimate thematic element of pride and the internal driving force to keep things the way they are which fights the conflicting force to fix the faulty nature of these very ways of life where pride originates. Steve takes the utmost pride in his work until his success within Global is put into question, as he struggles with his passion for a prosperous career while trying to maintain his small town roots-two crucial parts of him that compromise each other in unexpected ways. Just as Steve is at war with himself, so are the townspeople who question the value of tradition in contrast with the value of financial stability and hope for the future of their children and generations to come of rural America.


Stability vs. growth, pride vs. humility, and fact vs. fiction make up for the underlying figure under the umbrella of deception that fools not only the seemingly small minded citizens of a small farming town, but the protagonist himself, exposing the consequences of underestimating the power of human morale.

Matt Damon in "Promised Land"

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