Response Journal: Night Moves (2014)

Crime and punishment; and organic vegetables.

Night Moves, director Kelly Reichardt’s unnerving eco-thriller, is more ominous than most horror movies. Three environmental terrorists (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard) conspire to blow-up a hydro-electrical dam in Oregon. Sarsgaard is good as a mysterious former Marine; Fanning is great as a proselyte with the means and motivation for radicalism, but not the stomach; and Eisenberg stands out among them in a performance that rivals his Oscar-nominated one from The Social Network. His character, a subsistence-farmer named Josh, seethes from moment one with quiet fury and neurosis. In the aftermath, when the focus closes around him like prison walls, the movie becomes a character study of a creature so paranoid and desperate, so isolated and perpetually lost, and burning so painfully with ambivalent sorrow that he’s haunted by his own essential impotence. Reichardt uses her signature naturalistic severity throughout to set a tone of unrelenting anxiety. If her movie says little about the Green movement in general, it speaks volumes about the nature of violence with or without ostensible cause. Night Moves is an intense drama wherein young people who think they’re saving the world simply add more misery to it.

Editing by Kelly Reichardt.  Cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt.

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