Focus FeaturesAlternate title: We Bought a Gas Farm.

Been jonesin’ for a Hollywood movie about a hot-button environmental issue? One without animation, penguins, or Al Gore?

You’re in luck: Promised Land could be just the ticket when it hits theaters on Dec. 28. Beyond being the first environmental-issue drama with Oscar chances since Erin Brockovich, this movie about fracking in small-town America comes from some big-name players. Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, and John Krasinski star. Gus Van Sant directs. Damon and Krasinski wrote the script based on a story by Dave Eggers. Look closely: There might even be some Grist readers lurking in the background.

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Corporate salesman and all-American good guy Steve Butler (Matt Damon) tries to sell a teeny, depressed Pennsylvania town on the benefits (i.e. mad cash money) of fracking. Just as it looks like we’re headed for a happy ending, with a well on every plot and a fat wallet in every pocket, Butler is thwarted by a tenacious environmentalist (John Krasinki), some bad press, and a plaid-clad voice of wisdom (Hal Holbrook).

The practice of fracking has, er, exploded of late throughout the U.S., and Promised Land tells a familiar story of a struggling rural town sitting atop a gaseous gold mine. Barrels of money and the seemingly scant possibility of side effects make for an obvious choice, right? Yes, please! And a flaming-water cocktail to go, sir!

Here’s hoping the entire movie is as riveting as this 2.5-minute Damon-vs.-Krasinki throwdown. But ultimately my hope is that the film is able to effectively portray the uncomfortable power dynamics at work when big business comes into a small town, and the environmental tradeoffs we make for short-term economic gain. If it spurs curious minds to find out more about the impacts of fracking, all the better.

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