Night Moves

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Night Moves

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) is just a regular guy working on an eco-friendly farm outside Portland on the USA’s west coast. Well, that’s his day job: it turns out his commitment to environmentalism extends far beyond film nights and sustainable crops. Together with the more overtly right-on Dena (Dakota Fanning) they buy a powerboat and deliver it to Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), who provides both fake IDs and the fertilizer bombs they need for their mission: blowing up a local dam. Much of their scheme – buying the boat, trying to get more fertilizer, making sure no one stumbles across their plans as they set up the bomb – plays out like a low-key ’70s-era thriller. But it’s increasingly clear that the real drama in the latest film from director Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff) isn’t the destruction they wreak (their efforts are dismissed as “theatre” by one authority figure) but the cost they personally pay for their actions. Josh is the most self-contained of the trio, but what initially seems like steely determination slowly becomes something more fragile, while Dena’s more open support for the cause becomes a negative in the eyes of the others once the consequences of their actions becomes real.
Reichardt tells the story in a distant, somewhat emotionless fashion, her long static takes suggesting a world where characters have to impose their own meaning on things, and then pay the price for their choices. Eisenberg’s performance is the heart of this film. He turns his trademark energy inwards to play a man locked down inside himself, his nervousness exposed only by the occasional darting look. Initially hiding his true nature and beliefs from his friends and co-workers seems like a vital part of his mission. Gradually his refusal to connect with others turns toxic, and this thriller becomes a portrait of a man whose beliefs leave him adrift.
By Anthony Morris