Current Issue #477

Review: Night Moves

Review: Night Moves

Kelly Reichardt’s latest deliberately borrows its title from director Arthur Penn’s jaundiced, Gene Hackman-starring 1975 drama Night Moves, and therefore evidently wants to capture the famously dark mood and paranoid style of ‘70s New Hollywood.

Kelly Reichardt’s latest deliberately borrows its title from director Arthur Penn’s jaundiced, Gene Hackman-starring 1975 drama Night Moves, and therefore evidently wants to capture the famously dark mood and paranoid style of ‘70s New Hollywood. And it does, to a point, although this is obviously a movie about right now. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young environmentalist who’s been raised and now works in a green commune, and he and his rather more privileged girlfriend Deena (Dakota Fanning) muse often over scarily ‘relevant’ themes with like-minded friends and potential inductees to their cause. When they happen to meet Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), a military vet with would-be-revolutionary ideas disguising his vengeful and slightly unhinged side, the three decide that a nearby hydroelectric dam is a symbol of corporate greed and ecological devastation, and so they plot to blow it up. Reichardt watches their elaborate scheming with much of the same ‘neo-realistic’ detachment that featured in her previous pics Meek’s Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy, and the tension rises as they buy the items necessary to create explosives, get hold of fake IDs, obtain the use of a speedboat and more. Uneasiness and mistrust within the trio also simmers, with Josh jealous that Deena seems to fancy Harmon and annoyed that both of them are treating him like a fool. It’s striking how this film all about environmentalists seems to be so anti-environmentalist. Or is it? Are they, in fact, just flawed people who get in way over their heads while trying to do that ever-elusive ‘right thing’? With a meaner, considerably less-cute-thanexpected performance from Eisenberg and one of the best adult turns so far from Fanning, this might feel overlong for some audiences, and its stillness could perhaps be seen as slowness (or even dullness). Nevertheless, Reichardt’s richly drawn characters make it often fascinating, as we observe their contradictions and very human failings, and finally build to a daringly unresolved finale.  

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