Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Night Moves' Is a Psychological Drama That Keeps the Tension Running High

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Night Moves' Is a Psychological Drama That Keeps the Tension Running High

Article excerpt

"Night Moves" could be described as a thriller about ecoterrorism, but that wouldn't begin to convey its special qualities, its mysteriousness. Kelly Reichardt, who also coscripted the film with her regular writing partner Jon Raymond, makes movies (such as "Wendy and Lucy") that are almost preternaturally attuned to the minutest atmospherics of drama. At a time when most filmmakers are concerned with how supercharged they can film things, she can capture the sheer grain of time's passage in a way that is practically Zen-like.

At least on the surface, "Night Moves" is fairly straightforward. But there is nothing conventional about how Reichardt plays out her scenario. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) lives and works at a sustainable agricultural cooperative in southern Oregon. Profoundly disturbed by what he sees as the corporate desecration of the environment, he plans to blow up a nearby hydroelectric dam aided by Dena (Dakota Fanning), a college dropout who is bankrolling the operation, and Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), an ex-marine with an expertise in explosives.

Their preparation for the night raid has a single-minded meticulousness, a sense of mission, that is also deeply deluded. For all their planning, they seem unaware of just how much can go wrong. They want to preserve nature, but it is nature - along with their own hubris - that conspires against them. For its first half, up through the bombing, "Night Moves" has the steady-state tension of a good melodrama even as it goes way beyond that. The bombing itself, carried out in a hushed, nocturnal landscape that is both ominous and deeply beautiful, is a real nail-biter. Predictably, Reichardt doesn't actually show us the explosion; we hear instead a muffled boom in the background, as the three conspirators roll away from the scene of the crime.

The film's second half, while it doesn't pay off in the same way as what led up to it and has some dramatically unconvincing consequences, is also its most original aspect. In the wake of the operation, the three conspirators separate and agree to break off communication with each other. …

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