Urban Cinefile
"I'm over-critical and not easily satisfied. But I apologise a lot. I have to, because I make psychological mistakes on the set in being pissed off about things that are basically nonsense - "  -Paul Verhoeven
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday June 20, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Fringe dwelling farmhand Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), his high school dropout girlfriend Dena (Dakota Fanning) and their ex-marine mentor Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) plan an attack on a hydroelectric dam in Portland to protest the environmental devastation in their midst, but are sidelined by the unforeseen consequences of their actions.

Review by Louise Keller:
An ideal; an action; consequences. These are the elements of Kelly Reinhardt's intense and atmospheric thriller in which the promise of environmental disaster due to climate change prompts extreme and idealistic action. After a riveting first half filled with tension and one in which we are left to draw our own conclusions about details and relationships, the remainder of the film fizzles to some extent, diminishing the payoff. However, Reinhardt's film is quietly powerful with plenty to say and it is the actions that do most of the talking as it marries political objectives with moral issues.

Reinhardt begins by inviting us to observe the setting and the environment. (Her last two films Wendy and Lucy (2008) and Meek's Cutoff (2010) also relied heavily on the environment.) Here, it acts as both central plot point and the backdrop that forms the reality into which we are drawn. Everything involves water. There is a dam surrounding a lake. An organic farm is being watered. There is an ornamental waterfall, a spa an overflowing fountain. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) is a keen and silent observer; soon he will become an active participant.

Eisenberg is suitably contemplative with his mop of tousled curly hair and perpetual frown and there is little meaningful dialogue between Josh and Dena (Dakota Fanning) who clearly have a joint mission that has been a long time in the planning. The pieces of the jigsaw begin to fit when they meet up with US Marine-trained Harmon (effectively played by a bearded, rough and tough-looking Peter Sarsgaard). The infamous 'H' is how Dina greets him on their first meeting, when they assume fake identities. Fanning is excellent as the girl who jumps in beyond her depth. Clearly, what is planned is illegal, risky and dangerous. While the relationships between the three central characters are not spelt out, it is obvious Josh and Dena have a past, Dena and Harmon forge a new relationship and there is a long-standing connection between Josh and Harmon. Their joint actions immediately provide an unbreakable bond.

The setting surrounding the lake is idyllic - fir trees and deciduous trees symbolically dressed in their autumn colours. The music irritates somewhat; less might have been more. With the exception of the one thrilling sequence set on the lake in the dead of the night when the terrorist activity takes place, the remainder of the film is quietly passive. Morality and conscience continue to be the drivers and the exploration of the consequences is mostly internal. The provocative conclusion keeps us thinking - and there is much about which to think. The title Night Moves is the name of a boat; the name inspired by Arthur Penn's 1975 movie of the same name starring Gene Hackman.

Email this article

Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

(US, 2013)

CAST: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard

PRODUCER: Saemi Kim, Neil Kopp, Chris Maybach, Anish Savjani, Rodrigo Teixeira

DIRECTOR: Kelly Reichardt

SCRIPT: Jonathan Raymond, Kelly Reichardt

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christopher Blauvelt

EDITOR: Kelly Reichardt

MUSIC: Jeff Grace

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Elliott Hostetter

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 11, 2014

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019