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.
Steve Butler (Matt Damon), an ambitious salesperson for a natural gas corporation, has no doubt his persuasive skills will convince a small Pennsylvania town to allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in their backyards. But when an environmental activist (John Krasinski, The Office) tries to stop Butler's efforts--and woos a local teacher (Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister's Sister) that Butler feels attracted to--Butler's confidence starts to unravel. On the surface, Promised Land seems like a political exposé, but it's really a character study; Damon brims with confidence but slowly reveals doubt and conflict within. The supporting performances are excellent, including Hal Holbrook as a skeptical science teacher and the ever-superb Frances McDormand, both flinty and vulnerable as Butler's sales partner. Damon and Krasinski cowrote the script (from a story by novelist Dave Eggers) and smartly don't let the arguments get smug; moral curveballs get thrown whenever things seem too simple. The resolution is an uneasy mix of conspiracy theory and a Frank Capra movie, but the richness of the performances--guided by director Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk), who has an incredible eye for visual beauty--makes Promised Land as seductive as one of Butler's sales pitches. --Bret Fetzer