By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Gus Van Sant directed this film as a favor to friend Matt Damon who co-wrote the screenplay with actor John Krasinsky and David Eggers.  While Gus Van Sant does a fine job making this movie, the story and screenplay plays out like a typical morality tale of redemption, not really offering audiences anything fresh.  Perhaps the agenda of Eggers, Damon and Krasinsky took precedence over the story itself and an admirable agenda it is. However, should audiences flock to theaters to pay top dollars to take in this important message regarding the environmental effects of fracking for natural gas? Well, I’m not so sure what they are serving is quite worth the price.

Salesman Steve Butler (Damon) and his partner Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) visit a small farming town to sell the residents on the idea of leasing their land to a natural gas company for the purpose of drilling, aka fracking, for gas.  Because the town has been declining economically,Butler and Thomason are quite confident in their abilities to sell the community on the idea; however, they face two main obstacles: an environmental-savvy school teacher named Frank Yates and an environmental activist named Dustin Noble (Krasinsky).

Because of the talented cast, writers and director, this movie is only one grade above that of a TV movie of the week. I will admit that as I watched the film I was mostly engaged, and didn’t see a certain plot twist coming, but the resolution plays out predictably and a bit clichéd. That’s what I found slightly disappointing about the film.  The writers chose to follow a tired and familiar route with their plot.  The message here is what’s most important, but at the same time, the delivery of that message should have that necessary exclamation point to really drive it home and touch people’s hearts and minds.

Because of the importance of their message, I will recommend this movie as a matinee, but not as a full priced ticket.  It does serve to educate people on the environmental effects of fracking, but could have been done in a much more dynamic way.  I believe that those already familiar with the issues surrounding how industry obtains natural gas will probably experience boredom, but for those who know little about the subject, it could definitely be an eye-opener.

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