The hot-button topic of "fracking" has finally made its way to Hollywood in the movie Promised Land, with actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski teaming up to further the debate on the energy drilling technique.
The film explores the social impact of hydraulic fracturing - "fracking" - which has sparked environmental and political battles in the United States over its impact on drinking water, energy use, seismic activity and other areas.
Promised Land will see Damon, 42, reunite with director Gus Van Sant for the third time, following their success with 1997 film Good Will Hunting and 2002's Gerry.
In their latest film, Damon plays a corporate salesman who goes to a rural US town to buy or lease land on behalf of a gas company looking to drill for oil. He soon faces opposition from a slick environmentalist, played by Krasinski.
In real life, Damon has not shied away from getting involved in political and social issues, working with charities and organizations to fight AIDS in developing countries, bring attention to atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region, provide safe drinking water and stop trees from being chopped and used for junk mail.
Yet Promised Land, which Damon also co- wrote and produced, does not take a noticeable stance on "fracking." The actor would not publicly state his own views, saying his opinion does not have "any bearing" on the film.
"The point is that the movie should start a conversation," Damon said. "It's certainly not a pro-fracking movie, but we didn't want to tell people what to think."
The actor said he and Krasinski - best known for playing sardonic Jim Halpert on the television series The Office - never set out to make a socially conscious film, and "fracking" was added in later, as a backdrop to the story.
"It wasn't that we said we wanted to make a movie about `fracking' as much as we wanted to make a movie about American identity, about real people. We wanted to make a movie about the country today, where we came from, where we are and where we are headed," Damon said.
"`Fracking' is perfect because the stakes are so incredibly high and people are so divided. It asks all the questions about short-term thinking versus long-term thinking."
Hydraulic fracturing entails pumping water laced with chemicals and sand at high pressure into shale rock formations to break them up and unleash hydrocarbons. Critics worry that "fracking" fluids or hydrocarbons can still leak into water tables from wells, or above ground.