Night Moves – A long, quiet look at climate change and human frailty.
Written by: Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat, and Logan Miller
One can look up “Night Moves” on IMDB or any other movie site and see that, like all of Kelly Reichardt’s other films, it has very mixed reviews. Many praise it for being a powerful, eerie tale of morality concerning climate change. Others blast it for being too slow, too drawn out, and too Indie-ish. Such has been the opinion of Reichardt’s entire catalog. The uber minimalist “Meeks Cutoff” had people screaming “Artsy for the sake of being artsy” back in 2010. Others swooned over the minimalistic vibe, and beautiful cinematography. I, for one, enjoyed it immensely. I enjoyed “Night Moves” even more so.
Josh (Eisenberg) and Dena (Fanning) are young eco-activists who have decided that, with the help of Josh’s friend Harmon (Sarsgaard), they are going to take an active stance against corporate indifference to climate change by blowing up a dam in Oregon. The three draw up a not so well thought out plan to buy a boat, construct a bomb with 1500 pounds of fertilizer, and make a statement aimed at America’s corporatized government. Things foreseeably go wrong, and all three of them are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions. Each of them react in different ways, and ultimately come apart at the seems. Their convictions tested, they each have to decide which move to make next.
On the surface “Night Moves” is a movie that asks it’s viewers not to decide whether or not they believe in climate change. It tells them climate change is the reality we are facing, and asks what the next move is. Is it morally justifiable to do things like blow up a dam (even when that act in the movie seems futile as there are many dams on the same river)? Is there another, more productive way of fighting for the planet? Those questions are all present.
What I really took out of the film though was the showing of the all too real breaking point where, as humans, we cast our morals and our loyalties aside in favor of self-preservation. How, when we are put to the test, we are often too weak to do the right thing. If that is the case, will we do anything about this immensely important issue that is destroying the very planet we live on? Often times, taking necessary steps to right past wrongs is painful and soul draining. In “Night Moves” the characters start out so sure of themselves and the purpose they are fighting for. Then, because of poor planning, all of that momentum is lost, stressing the importance of carefully making the right decisions.
As always with Reichardt’s movies, the visual aspect is breathtaking, the mood is melancholy, and the atmosphere is tense. Eisenberg and Fanning give strong juxtaposing performances. Eisenberg is quiet and brooding, and you can see a new way for him to utilize his quirky blinky awkwardness by giving it a thoughtfully dark touch. I hope he tackles more roles similar to this as he seems to have a knack for them.
Okay, so here it is: I really liked “Night Moves”. I liked that it asks you the viewer tough questions and makes you think about your own stances on ecological and environmental issues. I liked the good acting from the entire cast (Oh yeah I forgot to mention that Peter Sarsgaard is really good albeit in a somewhat small capacity). I am decidedly a huge fan of Kelly Reichardt’s work, and if you are as well you will probably love this film. You will also enjoy it if you like slow paced yet profound stories in your movies. If you are not someone who can sit and watch rain fall out the window and marvel at it’s beauty and drift away into thoughts of the natural universe and how it is all connected… You might wanna stay away and leave this one to us deep thinkers 🙂