Matt Damon plays the character of Steve Butler in this movie. Butler is an amazing salesman who convinces owners of prairie land, that is otherwise useless, to sign a deal to allow the extraction of shale oil reserves from the land by a process called fracking. The local land-owners are ill-equipped to deal with the sudden extra valuation of land they previously thought was almost useless, when new technology brought to the area makes their land much more valuable.
Butler goes with his girlfriend Sue Thomason (played by Frances McDormand) to a rural area in Pennsylvannia where the farmers and their families have been struggling for years to make ends meet and to keep the family farms in the face of declining profits and prospects of what to do with the land. Butler and Sue try, at first, to blend in and not draw attention to themselves.
Butler ends up having to present his ideas to the town counsel. Butler estimates to the public, that the shale oil reserves are about $30 Million and even attempts bribing a local official to support him in his assumption. Butler's strong opposition is a scientist, Frank Yates (played by Hal Holbrook) who convinces everyone the actual value of the shale oil is closer to $150 million, with the backing of scientific proof.
Butler is confronted with his own deception, and sees first-hand how the big companies operate with disregard for those that stand in their way irrespective of their right to do so. Noble, who is a stoner, but a also a realist as well effects the final resolution of the battle. The fiunal resolution tells ua who wins in this power play for big money and oil versus the rights of people to defend their heritage and to recieve reasonable value for their land.
Best part of story, including ending:
What I like, is this movie explores all the inter-personal dynamics of shale-oil fracking which is a phenomena that is only recently (in the last decade) occurring in the United States. This comes at a time when the U.S. is trying to reduce its dependence on foreign oil but at what cost to lives of the people in rural America?
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Butler goes into a local bar and he is surprised that the patrons attack him. They call him the bringer of "f*ck you" money and throw him out. This scenes claerly show the difference between the haves and the have-nots.
Opinion about the main character:
Butler is an ass, there is no mistaking this. He is self-centered, and his goal, as his job, is to take advantage of everyone else. But, even Butler realizes this is a fool's errand and there is more to life than simply ripping off the rural farmers.