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Review: Night Moves

For better or worse, and for the most part it is better, the melancholic, sublime Night Moves may more appropriately be called Night Crawls. This is an especially quiet, small, and slow exercise in mental conflict and compromise, shaped with foreboding cinematography and plenty of worried looks.

The title comes from the name of the boat that a trio of environmental activists (or eco terrorists depending on where you’re standing) load up with explosives in order to blow up a dam. Led by Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), the threesome, which includes the younger Dena (Dakota Fanning) and more relaxed Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), move cautiously and remain for the most part anonymous.

We know little of their past, their motives, and their connections, but we do start to see cracks in their plan and ability to maintain a steely resolve. Kelly Reichardt’s atmospheric feature puts the climactic dam scene in the middle, building up to the act while letting the pieces fall as they may afterwards.

It’s a tense rise and even more aggravating fall. As sure as they are in discussion about their act that in theory will only cause property damage (as opposed to taking lives), they exhibit the briefest of hesitation as they see their subterfuge become realized. And it’s not really about the dam.

Sworn to part ways and lay low, the group struggles with unforeseen consequences and unexpected moral struggles. We follow Josh as he tries fall back in with friends and family while working in the Pacific Northwest, concerned that Dena’s inability to be quiet is more worrisome than his own isolated disposition.

Tempered and thoughtful, Reichardt forces you into your own moral dilemma, raising questions to which there are no easy answers. They are our protagonists, so perhaps we are on their side, and they may be because of our own environmental views or simply that they are so sure of their quest. The trio however is not homogenous, and within the group we start to make our own allegiances, further complicating matters.

From the very suspenseful to the exceptionally somber, with some chilling moments in between, Night Moves is decidedly and successfully unique, a slow burn of a moral quandary.

[star v=35]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.