In the state of Oregon USA – three environmental activists – Dena, a young woman born into money and sickened by western society living away from her family, Josh an arrogant militant working on an organic farm and Harmon a fearless former marine, alpha male and friend of Josh’s eager to destroy. The three join together and plot to destroy a hydroelectric dam.
Brought to us by Kelly Reichardt, Night Moves casts a spell on us wanting to manipulate us instantly, we are captivated by the views of the three environmental radicals at the front of this political thriller.
The film opens on a bleak looking duo – Dena and Josh (Fanning and Eisenberg) staring down at a hydroelectric dam in the Oregon Mountains, soon enough we clock on to their intentions. The two characters also a third (Saarsgard) each entice us with their individuality and darkness which leaves us wondering when the credits roll.
Fanning’s character Dena uses her savings to buy a speedboat named Night Moves. With help from ex-marine Harmon (Saarsgard) the three stock up on fertiliser, create homemade bombs and sail into the night. With little panic and all (almost) going to plan, the dam is no more.
For the first hour we are gripped to a plan we are waiting to be executed then we are instantly thrown back to reality. We follow Josh and Dena dealing with the consequences of their actions although for Dena going back to reality is proving more difficult.
Eisenberg portrays Josh, an organic vegetable farmer who we instantly take a strong dislike to. After sitting watching his dark eyes roll at a short environmentalist film, lacking in personality it is hard to engage with such a person however I contradict myself as it is equally as difficult to stop looking at him. Eisenberg’s portrayal is compelling, he makes it impossible for us to look away from him. In this film his dialogue is limited yet we sit on the edge of the seat waiting for him to say something, anything.
A scene in which Josh and Dena find a deer killed and left on the edge of the road manipulates us into thinking actually Josh isn’t as insensitive as we are at this point assuming however he lies his hand on the deer and announces to Dena the victim is in fact a pregnant doe which is followed by him pulling it to the road edge and pushing then watching the pregnant doe roll down the hill, emotionless. Instantly I hate myself for falling for such an act and realise that the use of the strong red tail lights and lack of other artificial film lighting was a hint of what was to follow – death.
The location adds isolation to the cinematic experience. Sitting alone, silent in the dark whilst watching this dark and dangerous narrative gives that bit extra and creates the ultimate film experience, almost like we are involved and are too aboard the floating vessel or in Harmon’s caravan – a fourth member to the team.
The natural surroundings and the lack of metropolis is refreshing. The possibilities and the lengths the three characters will go too are as broad as the flowing mountains and towering woods that are the backdrop of this thriller.
This green fingers turned red fingers tale has us sat firmly on the edge of our seats from start to finish. The ending scene I didn’t expect and I am still deciding whether my response is positive or negative.
The three performances are flawless and perfectly executed by three daring and gripping actors. The minimalist approach to all aspects of the film stay true to a narrative which says no to materialism.
Running Time: 112 minutes
Director: Kelly Reichardt;
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard,
Release Date: 29th August 2014