Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Matt Damon's Fracking Film Manages To Make No One Happy

Promised Land, the new Matt Damon film about the consequences of drilling for natural gas, manages to get bad reviews from both gas moguls and environmentalists, who all say it misses the actual issues of what should be an important debate.

The subtlety of Promised Land, the new Matt Damon film about what happens when fracking comes to a small town, can be summed up with this scene: An environmentalist played by John Krasinski attempts to show a group of grade schoolers the dangers of fracking (hydraulic fracturing, or a process where highly pressurized water, sand, and chemicals are are injected into wells, where they break apart rock containing natural gas) by dumping chemicals onto a miniaturized barn that is quickly engulfed in flames. It's an unfortunate simplification of a contentious question: What are the environmental and health hazards of letting oil and natural gas companies frack in small towns?

Without giving away any twists involving Hal Holbrooke or the comely local school teacher, the plot of Promised Land can be described up as follows: two flacks from a natural gas company (Matt Damon and Frances McDormand) come to a rural Pennsylvania town, where they're supposed to convince residents that fracking on their land is a good idea--and one that will make them rich. Krasinski's environmentalist character soon appears in town, complicating their plans.

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