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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Night Moves Movie Review

Kelly Reichardt's "Night Moves" is intended to be an environmental thriller. It focuses on radical environmentalism, not as a whole, but rather through one group of young adults bent on scoring points for their cause. It is difficult to decide who fares worse, these environmentalists or Reichardt.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), Dena (Dakota Fanning) and Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) are the trio striving to bring attention to their cause. Their plan is to blow up a dam, with Josh as the driving force. He is a member of an organic farming community that wants to leave the earth as undisturbed as possible, but Josh feels like he is not making enough of a difference, so he convinces the hesitant Dena to join his cause and Harmon is enlisted for his expertise with explosives.

Their mission succeeds in that they do blow up the targeted dam, but "Night Moves" isn't about success or failure. It is about the aftermath of radical action. What exactly is accomplished? What unintended consequences await when people with an extremely narrow focus set out to make a difference? Just because you think you are working for the greater good does not necessarily mean it is so.

The first half of the film is about the preparations needed to accomplish their goal. Parts of this work while other parts are tedious. Fanning is the sole bright light that breathes life into her character, while her male counterparts are stereotypes of what we would expect to find.

In the second half, the three of them deal with the inevitable and not so inevitable repercussions of their act. The problem is that you probably won't care at all. Eisenberg's face displays great tension. That is fine for a couple of minutes at a time, but when it stretches past 30 minutes, it loses whatever power it might have had. A couple of little plot points are by-the-numbers, but by then you will just be waiting for the end. It can't come soon enough. "Night Moves" does not move enough, either in story or emotionally.

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