Reichardt is such a skilled filmmaker that the moral consequences of eco-terrorism is given as nuanced a treatment as possible in this slow-burning gem.
Dir. Kelly Reichardt
2013 | USA | Drama/Thriller | 112 mins | 1.78:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for some language and nudity
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard
Plot: Three radical environmental activists work together to blow up an Oregon hydroelectric dam. But their act of eco-terror plunges them into a moral maelstrom.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice); Official Selection (Toronto)
International Sales: The Match Factory
Subject Matter: Moderate – Eco-terrorism; Morality
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Finally, I got to explore a Kelly Reichardt film for the first time, and as far as Night Moves is concerned, it operates beautifully on my wavelength, and I can’t wait to see more of her works in the future. Branded as an eco-terrorism thriller, Reichardt’s film will alienate viewers looking for a propulsive ride.
There is nothing that would suggest this would be an exciting film, save for an extended sequence in the first half where a trio of characters (as played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard) attempt a terrorist act—the bombing of a local hydroelectric dam—that oozes genre-related suspense.
However, many critics have aired their disappointment towards the film’s ‘lethargic’ second half, where the consequences of the act become not just political, but psychological and moral as well. I beg to differ; I think the latter half of Night Moves is just as strong.
“Yeah, it’s got to be big. If people are going to start thinking anyway… “
Reichardt is such a skilled filmmaker that the sensitive nature of radical thought and action is given as nuanced a treatment as possible. Eisenberg and Fanning are particularly good here, with the former producing what could be his finest performance post-The Social Network (2010).
Night Moves is a slow-burning gem that while evoking some elements of Hitchcock, descends into paranoia, and much like Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), fear and guilt is portrayed in a restrained but wonderfully cinematic way.
While Elizabeth Olsen’s stunning performance in Durkin’s film expresses an outwardly palpable sense of a traumatised woman breaking down, Eisenberg’s acting is no less impressive, even if he does the opposite by keeping in the emotions as a state of psychological stasis begins to paralyse him.