John Hanlon

Matt Damon’s latest film “Promised Land” arrived in theaters nationwide yesterday with a focus on the controversial issue of fracking. Written by Matt Damon (who won an Oscar for co-writing “Good Will Hunting”) and John Krasinski (“The Office),” the story focuses on a small community that is asked to debate the merits of the process when a large corporation arrives in town wanting to buy much of the local land.

In an article from the Wall Street Journal, reporter Daniel Gilbert described -- much more succinctly than the film does -- what the process of fracking entails. He noted that “Fracking involves blasting millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals into a well to break up shale and allow oil and gas to flow out.”

The community that “Promised Land” is set in is suffering financially and tempted by the thought of having millions of dollars poured into the region. Damon plays Steve Butler, a salesman who tries to convince the locals to sell the land to his company, Global. When a local politician hosts a discussion of the subject in the high school gym, though, Butler spots trouble right away when a teacher (played by Hal Holbrook) interrupts the forum to question the environmental impact that fracking would have in the area. Soon enough, a charismatic environmentalist named Dustin Noble (Karsinski) arrives in town and tries to get the locals to reject Global.

The movie, focusing on the controversial subject, has inevitably received criticism from those on the Right and praise from some on the Left. But it’s not the movie’s political leanings that hold it back. It’s the simplicity in which the writers evaluate the subject.

Superficially, the movie seeks to argue that fracking can be both beneficial and detrimental. Butler argues that it will help the community because it will bring in more money to the individuals who sell their land. Noble argues that fracking will destroy the community and even grossly suggests -- to a group of young students, no less -- that fracking could cause the whole community to burst into flame.

John Hanlon

John Hanlon writes movie reviews and about pop culture for our site. He can be found on Twitter @johnhanlon.