Jesse Eisenberg returns to his brooding best in this small town america eco terrorism thriller.
Night Moves is Kelly Reichardt’s new psychological thriller of a film that tells the story of three average people who plot to blow up a dam as an act of environmental protest. Through close to two hours of film, the pace is maintained at glacial, each sentence measured, each shot lingering for long enough to embed a deep sense of unease to the proceedings.
Josh, Dena and Harmon look to detonate a major homemade bomb in a boat next to a hydro electric dam on a river, the trio come together in the final stages of preparations, their unease mixed with their unwavering idealism to provide deep social commentary on issues of environmentalism. The first and second half of the film are quite different and some may find that this wasn’t the film they signed up for. Night Moves is a suspense fueled environmental drama seen through the eyes of the melancholy but aggravated in Josh’s character, his accomplices reflect the more innocent idealism and haggard determinism of the environmental movement. The film is able to roll forward its message of sustainability while also suggesting the issues found in those looking to fulfill such a goal.
Night Moves did something that very few films do anymore, it left me guessing throughout. The premise is established in the opening minutes but at no point was I sure if we would actually see the plan eventuate. The mood is somber throughout, disguising what could otherwise be a paint by numbers plot to be something truly compelling. We are given real characters with real reactions, they are riddled with imperfections and limited by logical decisions. The constant reality presented gives us a clear reminder that in life not everything goes right, as a result, I held my breathe unsure of what was to come.
Jesse Eisenberg is a stand out here. In his lead role as Josh he returns to b the awkward shy character we met him playing in films like Rodger Dodger and The Social Network. You can see the cogs turning behind his cold eyes, his lips never giving away emotion as you are unsure how to feel about this person or their purpose. Peter Sarsgaard is always a bad guy, it becomes unfortunately like seeing Sean Bean in something, you kind of know where its going. Here Sarsgaard is less evil than just menacing, there is something untold about his character Harmon that adds levels to the thrill. Dakota Fanning may be the weak link here, she pays a character who is unsure of what she has got herself into, but yet is often as dead eyed as those around her. It becomes hard to care for the character as the inevitable occurs and at the close we don’t seem to have much feeling about her which in a three piece cast is unfortunate.
Night Moves is close to two hours but contains very little fat. Each scene is required and referenced, each shot is a message or a signal of things to come. We are given slow pans of waterlogged dead trees, dialogue about golf courses and brooding car rides, each adding to the message or the tension of the piece. The film will not appeal to many, its dark tone, glacial pace and grim performances will deter many, but for those that can deal with the slow burn, you will be rewarded with a film as close to real life as discomfort will allow.