Night Moves (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/02/2014

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 112 mins

Engaging and provocative, this is a fiercely introspective thriller from writer-director Kelly Reichardt with a pair of superb performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff), Night Moves stars Jesse Eisenberg as Josh, an organic farmer in rural Oregon who is plotting an act of eco-terrorism with zen-retreat manager Dena (Dakota Fanning) and shady marine-turned-anarchist Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard). Their plan is to make a statement by blowing up a hydro-electric dam, hoping to give environmental issues some media exposure and send a message about America's consumption of electricity.

However, their actions have unforeseen consequences and Josh and Dena are soon forced to deal with the guilt of what they have done. As the police begin to ask questions, Dena's guilt takes on the telltale form of a red-raw anxiety rash, while Josh becomes increasingly paranoid.

The Good
Eisenberg is excellent as Josh, a not particularly likeable character who's forced to confront a painful reality; intriguingly, Reichardt keeps you guessing as to the exact nature of Josh's naivety or otherwise beforehand. Fanning is equally good as the more immediately sympathetic Dena (though she is as irritating as Josh in her own hippy-dippy save-the-planet way), while Sarsgaard is effectively chilling as the unpredictable Harmon, who's harbouring a destructive streak of his own.

Fans of Reichardt's previous films will know what to expect, or rather, what not to expect, since there is very little in the way of actual action (no big budget dam explosions here), despite the thriller-based premise. Instead, her thoughtful script is fiercely introspective and the relative lack of dialogue forces you to scrutinise Josh and Dena for telltale signs of the personal toll their actions have taken.

The Great
The script also explores issues of loyalty (both personal and political) and the inherent ethical dilemma in causing a potentially huge amount of damage in the name of the environment (a hydro-electric dam does seem a strange choice in that regard - presumably they were too far away from the nearest fracking plant). Ultimately, rather than standing as a call to action, the film takes a fairly depressing world-view, in a cleverly conceived, brilliantly subtle scene that gives you a clue as to the wider impact of their actions as far as, say, the media and the general public are concerned.

Worth seeing?
Night Moves a slow-burning, thought-provoking eco-thriller from Kelly Reichardt that poses some difficult questions, thanks to a strong script and complex performances from Eisenberg and Fanning. Recommended.

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Content updated: 24/04/2019 15:24

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