Friday, 3 October 2014

Night Moves - Dir. Kelly Reichardt

A brilliantly crafted first half gives way to a peculiar second half; Night Moves follows three very different eco-warriors and their attempt to blow up a hydroelectric dam.
Night Moves isn’t really a film about blowing up a dam, nor is it a thriller. It can be thrilling, particularly during the tense sequence where the trio move their homemade bomb into place, but director Kelly Reichardt is more interested in her three characters. In the beginning, Josh is the paranoid control freak, Dena is the idealistic rich kid and Harmon is the confident veteran; Reichardt subtly develops their characteristics through their interactions as they prepare for their mission. These preparations are the mundane tasks that other films might skip over, but Reichardt uses this preparation as context for 
introducing these three very different people.

They are united by this extreme idea and goal, but Reichardt masterfully shows them to be a disparate band of eco-terrorists. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg, with his best role since The Social Network) is a deeply unlikeable character whose meticulous and emotionally detached nature helps him to better approach the unexpected fallout of the mission. Dena’s (Dakota Fanning) bravado carries her through the preparation stages but falls in the aftermath. Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) carefully positions himself in such a way that he is involved as little as possible and is able to swiftly retreat into his normal life.

After the unnervingly tense dam set piece, Night Moves morphs into a slightly different beast. With greater hindsight, it definitely feels like a continuation of the first half, but just not the continuation that convention might have dictated. Reichardt achieves the important trick of quickening the narrative whilst maintaining the measured pace of the rest of the film. The actors too subtly adapt their performances to their new circumstances. All of the developments don’t entirely convince but the material never slips out of Reichardt’s steadfast control; she has made the film she intended to, without compromise.
There’s a great confidence to this work from all involved that encourages the viewer to reflect on the film in its abrupt final moments and in the days that follow.

Night Moves was released in the UK on 29th August 2014. It is due for release on DVD/Blu Ray on 11th January 2015. Images and trailer courtesy of Cinedigm and Soda Pictures.

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