Damon plays Steve Butler, the company representative who sets up leases with landowners to drill on or near their property. In the film's opening scenes, Butler is portrayed as a man who signs bargain-basement leases and dismisses reverence for rural America as "delusional" and "self-mythologizing."
He and his partner are persuading residents of McKinley to sign leases with their company. Then Krasinski's character, Dustin Noble, turns up with photos of dead cattle, which he said were poisoned from gas drilling at his family farm in Nebraska.
With a town-wide vote on gas drilling looming, the two men tussle for the support, and affections, of local residents.
The movie was shot in and around the town of Worthington, about 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The state of Pennsylvania, which has been pushing gas drilling, gave the production company $4 million in tax credits, an investment deemed worthwhile because of the jobs and spending the movie brought to the area, said Steve Katz, a state spokesman. Hundreds of local residents auditioned to play one of 500 extras, according to the film's producers.
Hanger, who calls himself a realist about costs and benefits of gas drilling, said the movie undercuts the advantages of the process at every turn. It shows Butler to be a shifty character from the start, and the gas company willing to bribe and cheat to prevail, he said.
"This movie could have challenged everybody, and forced everyone to face questions," Hanger said. Fracking "offers dramatic, powerful material and requires better."
Supporters of the practice will have their own film in the coming days, as Phelim McAleer is set to release on Monday his "Fracknation," which questions the critics of the practice. McAleer paid for space on a billboard in upstate New York, which says, "Matt Damon: the water has been on fire since 1669."
"The movie is OK, but it's the politics and dishonesty I can't stand," McAleer said in an interview.