"There is a simple elegance to Night Moves"
Having cut her teeth on a series of lo fi indie shorts and features, writer director Kelly Reichardt brings those sensibilities to her latest film, Night Moves. Reichardt is clearly sticking with what she knows as rural Oregon is the backdrop for this eco thriller as it has been in many of her previous films now.
Seemingly delving into quite a hot topic issue, Night Moves follows three young eco activists/terrorists who plan on destroying a local dam. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) together with Dena (Dakota Fanning) and Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) are in the final stages of carrying out their evidently long gestating plan, which includes acquiring a boat and hundreds of pounds of fertilzer. When the deed is done, carried out under the cover of darkness it transpires that one unlucky individual was a victim of this crime, swept away from the dams collapse and found dead down river. Troubled by the thought of causing someones death, Dena starts to unravel, becoming increasingly paranoid and threatening to expose what happened to the police.
There is a simple elegance to Night Moves, much like the lives of it's three main characters, with Josh living on a CSA farm and Dena working at a sort of holistic spa centre, the films cinematography and pacing echoes this graceful existence. There are shades of Gus Van Sants work in Night Moves, perhaps this could be down to the lush Oregon landscape, all in all in there is a sense of beauty and calmness to the piece.
However there is a much darker tone to Night Moves than meets the eye, from the opening scene of Josh and Dena scoping out the soon to be destroyed damn, there is a slow burning tension that gradually rises. The character of Josh, played with a great intensity by Eisenberg provides a pivotal anchor point for the films gradual build of pressure. He becomes an almost human barometer for the audience, despite the fact he barely says anything throughout the film, you understand everything this character is going through.
Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard fill their roles perfectly, there are numerous actors who could play these roles but having such talented individuals as Fanning and Sarsgaard just elevates the film so much more. The tone and style of the film seems almost verite in it's execution to the point it almost feels like non acting. Dialogue and conversations are few and far between in Night Moves, so it's a testament to these three actors they can bring so much to the role with so little.
As mentioned previously the film is a slow burner, you may find your mind wandering at certain points, particularly after the dam is destroyed and the three main characters attempt to go back to their normal lives. There the pacing starts to wain slightly but Night Moves has enough stand out scenes to snap you back into the action and by the third act you'll be glued to the screen. That said however, there is a certain boldness in lingering on a shot or giving characters a chance to exist and breathe on screen and this feels very deliberate from a filmmaking point of view, by spending time with these characters, observing their lives and ultimately seeing what they're capable of makes the finale even more shocking.