Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) are eco activists living in rural Oregon. The people they surround themselves with are conscientious do-gooders trying to improve the ecosystem with one small film and organic farm at a time, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for Josh and Dena. The two have a bigger plan in store that involves teaming up with fellow radical environmentalist Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard). In reality, though, there are never easy fixes and they are to forced learn that the hard way.
Night Moves is a slow-burn thriller centered around the preparation and aftermath of one big event in the activists’ lives. The film is reminiscent of a recent film, The East, which dealt with eco-terrorists in a satisfying yet far more conventional manner. Director Kelly Reichardt’s film, in turn, is more subdued and ambivalent about the film’s political leanings and its protagonists for that matter.
Though it is deliberate in its pacing, tensions do mount and the climax is undoubtedly effective, though a tad premature which leads to an overlong denouement. With its lush Pacific Northwest landscapes and opaque tones Night Moves has beautiful cinematography and a fittingly somber score. Reichardt has the great skill of filming nature and characters in an elegant, harmonious way; the grandiosity of nature never overpowers the people.
Though this is a character-driven film, the characters are nothing if not enigmatic. Josh, who barely cracks a smile (or shows any other human emotion for that matter) is perhaps the most determined and serious of the three, but viewers do not have much to go on. Dena and Harmon are more talkative and animated, but they don’t give much away either. Night Moves is a striking film about three people trying to make a difference in a pragmatic world that won’t let them have an easy win; a film that strays away from a heavy-handed message.
3.5 out of 5
Night Moves is now playing in English with German subtitles in FSK, Hackesche Höfe, Rollberg, and Tilsiter Lichtspiele.
Director: Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard
Written by: Eli Lewy