Saturday, February 22, 2014

Glasgow Film Festival Review: Night Moves

Night Moves                           15                    Four out of five stars

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Genre: Thriller
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat,
Kai Lennox, Katherine Waterston, Barry Del Sherman, James Le Gros,
Matt Malloy, Logan Miller, Joel Polinsky, Autumn Nidalmia
Running time: 112 mins

Thriller, written and directed by Kelly Reichardt, starring Jesse
Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning as a pair of eco-terrorists dealing with
the aftermath of their plot to blow up a hydro-electric dam.

Engaging and provocative, this is a fiercely introspective thriller
from writer-director Kelly Reichardt with a pair of superb
performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning.

What's it all about?

Written and directed by Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff), Night Moves
stars Jesse Eisenberg as Josh, an organic farmer in rural Oregon who
is plotting an act of eco-terrorism with zen-retreat manager Dena
(Dakota Fanning) and shady marine-turned-anarchist Harmon (Peter
Sarsgaard). Their plan is to make a statement by blowing up a
hydro-electric dam, hoping to give environmental issues some media
exposure and send a message about America's consumption of

However, their actions have unforeseen consequences and Josh and Dena are soon forced to deal with the guilt of what they have done. As the police begin to ask questions, Dena's guilt takes on the telltale form of a red-raw anxiety rash, while Josh becomes increasingly paranoid.

The good

Eisenberg is excellent as Josh, a not particularly likeable character
who's forced to confront a painful reality; intriguingly, Reichardt
keeps you guessing as to the exact nature of Josh's naivety or
otherwise beforehand. Fanning is equally good as the more immediately
sympathetic Dena (though she is as irritating as Josh in her own
hippy-dippy save-the-planet way), while Sarsgaard is effectively
chilling as the unpredictable Harmon, who's harbouring a destructive
streak of his own.

Fans of Reichardt's previous films will know what to expect, or
rather, what not to expect, since there is very little in the way of
actual action (no big budget dam explosions here), despite the
thriller-based premise. Instead, her thoughtful script is fiercely
introspective and the relative lack of dialogue forces you to
scrutinise Josh and Dena for telltale signs of the personal toll their
actions have taken.

The great

The script also explores issues of loyalty (both personal and
political) and the inherent ethical dilemma in causing a potentially
huge amount of damage in the name of the environment (a hydro-electric dam does seem a strange choice in that regard - presumably they were too far away from the nearest fracking plant). Ultimately, rather than standing as a call to action, the film takes a fairly depressing world-view, in a cleverly conceived, brilliantly subtle scene that gives you a clue as to the wider impact of their actions as far as, say, the media and the general public are concerned.

Worth seeing?

This a slow-burning, thought-provoking eco-thriller from Kelly
Reichardt that poses some difficult questions, thanks to a strong
script and complex performances from Eisenberg and Fanning.


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