Hal Holbrook

Promised Land is a small movie that tackles a big subject

Promised Land #2


Promised Land is a small movie currently in limited release that should get more publicity than it has. It is about the controversial topic of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” as it is commonly called.

Promised Land written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski (of The Office) also stars these two men who oppose each other in the battle for or against fracking in a small Pennsylvania town. Matt Damon as Steve Butler and his partner Frances McDormand as Sue Thomason are sales reps for Global Crosspower Solutions, an energy company specializing in retrieving natural gas through the controversial method of fracking. They convince the farmers to sign over the drilling rights in this small depressed farm town by promising them they will be millionaires. All they have to do is sign on the dotted line.

Damon, the smooth operator dressed down in jeans and flannel shirt, feels this will be a quick job and they will be out of the town in a few days when the town decides to put the decision up to a vote. This decision is encouraged by the town’s local high school science teacher (played by Hal Holbrook) who is also an internationally renowned geologist. He brings up the question of the safety of fracking causing the town’s people who have already signed to rethink their decision.

To further muddy the picture for Global’s reps (Damon and McDormand) Dustin Noble (Krasinski) as a grassroots environmentalist comes to town. He tells the people how his family’s dairy farm cows all died due to Global’s fracking.

As expected, tensions mount building up to the big vote. At this point the plot takes a twist that blind sides everyone.

This is an excellent movie that examines the pros, cons, and dangers of natural gas retrieval through hydraulic fracturing without being preachy. Anyone who has followed this blog knows I have cautioned about the dangers of fracking and have written against it in the past. In some ways I wish the movie were more forceful about the dangers of fracking but it does point out one problem I have been fearful of from the beginning. That is, I have been afraid government, business, and struggling families may be too eager to jump on the bandwagon without considering the consequences. Can we trust these gas companies when billions of dollars are at stake? Will we sacrifice our environment, safe drinking water, and our health for more energy?

Promised Land is an interesting movie about a very hot topic. It has an excellent cast and is well written and acted. Hal Holbrook gives a forceful and touching performance, Matt Damon and John Krasinski are great playing against each not only for the loyalty of the town but also for the same girl, and Fances McDormand enlivens the movie with her usual quirkiness.

This is a must-see movie if you are concerned about our environment or want to know more about fracking.

I give Promised Land a B+.


NOTE–here are links to previous posts regarding fracking.



























MOVIE REVIEW: Water for Elephants

Cover of "Water for Elephants: A Novel"

Cover of Water for Elephants: A Novel

As a young child in the 50’s I remember my grandfather waking me early one morning and taking me to the circus. What we saw was something that is forever stamped in my memory. It was something few people have had the opportunity to experience—I saw the circus tent go up!

As I stood on a hill clutching my grandfather’s hand I saw the elephants unload the circus train. The men spread the huge canvas on the ground and the elephants were placed in opposite corners; then, on command, they began pulling outward and the tent rose like magic in the middle of a hot and dusty field.

I am happy to say Water for Elephants recreates that magic. The nostalgic atmosphere of the movie took me back to that day. As the men on screen work to erect the tent and corral the animals, I could almost feel the hot sun on my back and taste the sweat on my lips. The portrayal of the circus and the behind the scenes activity is quite authentic—If I can trust the memory of a small child.

Robert Pattinson does a superb job portraying a young, confused veterinarian student forced to drop out of school due to the sudden death of his parents in a car accident. He has such an on-screen charisma that I predict he has a great future ahead of him. Reese Witherspoon, as always, is beguiling; however I feel there could have been a stronger tension created between her character and Pattinson’s. Once again Christoph Waltz portrays pure evil as well as he did in his award-winning performance in Inglorious Bastards. He keeps you wondering if he is truly insane or just delights in watching people squirm while ruining their lives. You sense the devil simmering just underneath his skin. It is also a treat to see veteran actor Hal Holbrook.

As in any circus there is a variety of off-beat characters. Thankfully, we have the opportunity to witness their humanness as they play practical jokes to relieve the tensions and monotony of constant travel and uncertain gate receipts. For animal lovers like myself there is the usual assortment lions and tigers, zebras and horses, and Rosey the Elephant. Here we see the darker side of circus life and the treatment of the animals. Hint, how do you think the lions are fed after an animal dies? Some of the scenes are disturbing but they portray the facts of life and death.

But the bright and shining star of the show and the movie is Rosey the Elephant. We discover it is true elephants are very intelligent animals. I don’t want to give anything away but the true hero of the movie is Rosey.

Water for Elephants is the first award worthy movie of the year. I give it an A.